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[S PLEASE RETURN THIS BOOK -^ <\^^ 

j; TO ITS PLACE ,y^<^S^ 

i WHEN FINISHED WITH _x^ ^VS*^ 

V ^^^'^^j'^ •'" i* '" ^^ ^'OT TURN DOWN 

T '^'^* .-*'** ANY OP 

'\) ,<^ ' THE LEAVES OF THIS BOOK. 




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THE 



TRAIL OF THE SERPENT 



ilDatul 



BT THB AUmOB OF 



LADY AUDLEY'S SECRET," "AURORA FLOYD * 
" VIXEN," " ISHMAEL," etc. Era 



** Poor nee of men, said the pityinff Siurit, 
Dearly ye pay for your prizaal fall ; 
Borne flowers of Bden je yet ioherit. 
But the trail of the Serpent is oyer them all.'* 

Moaru 



j$tertotgptb (Sbilion 



LONDON: 
SIMPKIN, MARSHALL, HAMILTON, KENT & CO., 

LIMITED, 

STATIONERS* HALL COURT 

1892, 

lAU rights rewrv^Ll 



I 



f)C Z 1^^^ 



MISS BRADDON'S NOVELS. 



Vow BbAST at AUi BoOKSELUOa^ AVD BOOKSTALLB, 

PmoB 2i. 6(2. BACH, Oloth gilt. 

THE AUTHOE'S AUTOGRAPH EDITION 
OF mSS BRADDON'S NOVEL& 



•■No one caa be dnllwhohcs a novel by Mta Braddon In hand, 
rhe moflt tlreeome Jonn^ is begaUed, and the moet wearisome 
Ulnees UDrightened, bj any one o< hesr books." 

••Miss Braddon la the Qneen of the dnnlating Ufaniles.* 

Th4 VorM. 



LONDONi 

8IMPEIN & CO., LiiciTED^ 

STATiQxnBfi^ Hall Goubt. 
Ami ai dH JRaUway BookMtaUs, Booksellers^ and LSbraHeo, 



T 



i 



CONT ENTS 



CBAP. 

I. 

11. 

III. 

IV. 

V. 

VL 
VII. 

VIII. 
IX. 



▲ BESFECTABLB T0I7N0 HAN. 



The Gk)Oi> Schoolmaster. . . 
Good por Nothhig .... 
The Usher i^hes his Hakds a 

BlOHARD MaRWOOD LIOHTS HIS PlPB . 

The Healing Waters 
Two Coroner's Inquests . 
The Dumb Detective a Philanthropist 
Seven Letters on the Dirty Alphabet 
Mad, Gentlemen of the Jury" . 



<( 





iA«B 




fi 




. 10 




, . 17 




. 21 




. 28 




84 




. 38 




. 43 


• # < 


• 48 



^00k t|^^ Bnori^, 

A CIiEABANCE OF ALL SC0BEI9. 

I. Blind Eeter » •. 

IL Like and Unlike 

III. A Golden Secret 

IV. Jim looks over the BniNK of the Terrible Gulf 
V. Midnioht by the Slopperton Clocks • 

VI. The Quiet Figubb on the Heath . • • 
VII. Thb Usher Exsiqvs his Situation . • • 



58 

63 
66 

71 
78 
82 
91 



^00k t\t %^ti* 

A HOLT INSTITTJTIOM, 

t. The Value of an Opera-Gla^ 
II. Working in the Dark 

III. Thb Wrong Footstep 

IV. Ocular Demonstration 
V. Thb Kdtg of Spades 

VI. A Glass of Wine . 
VII. Thb Last Act of Lucretia Borgia , 
nil. Bad Drbams and a Worse Waking 

IX. A Marbiagb in High Lifb • 
X. Anuul Magnbtibk • • • 





m 


. 95 




• 


. 99 




» • 


. 104 




• 


• 111 




> • < 


, 116 




> 4 < 


, 124 




» • 1 


» 129 




t m i 


. 183 




t • 


» 141 


^ 


% % 


% ^Mb 



i 



ContentM, 



gooS ih Jfoud^. 



NAPOLEON THE GREAt. 

I. TbK fiOT l^ROli SliOPPERTON . . . ^ • 150 

II. Mr. Augustus Darley and Mb. Joseph Peters oo ocf 

FisHiNO .162 

III. The Emperor bids Adieu to Elba 107 

IV. Joy and Happiness fob Everybody 177 

V. TiiK Cuerokees take an Oath .... 181 

TL SI&. Peters relates uow hb Tnoucnx hb bad ▲ Clc1| 

AND how us lost n 187 



THE DUMB DETECTIVE. 

I. TnE Count De Marolles at Home . • • • • 200 
II. Mr. Peters sees a Ghost ..•••• 205 

III. Thr Cherokees mark theib Man . » • • 212 

IV. The Captain, thb Chemist, and thb Lasoab • • .217 
V. The New Milkman in Park Lane . . • • .221 

VI. SiGNOR MoSQUETTI RELATES AN AdYENTURB . . . 225 

VII. The Golden Secret is told, and the Golden Bowl is 

broken 280 

VIII. Onb Step further on thb Kiqht Track . . . 235 
IX. Captain Lansdown overhears a Conversatioh which 

appbabs to interest uim 241 



ON THE TRACK. 

L Fathbb AMD Son . « S47 

II. Raymond db Marolles shows himself betteb than all 

Bow Street 258 

III. The Left-handed Smasher makes his Mark . . . 263 

IV. What they find in the B,oom in which tub Murder 

was committed 271 

V. Mr. Peters decides on a Strakge Step, and Arrests tub 

Dead 282 

VL Thb End of the Dark Eoad •••••• 800 

VII. Fabettfix to Enolabp • « • • • » .811 



lb 



THE TRAIL OF THE SERPENT 



§00k l^e Jfirst* . 

A EESPECTABLB YOUNG MAN, 



CHAPTER L 

THE GOOD SCHOOLMASTEB. 

I don't suppose it rained liaxder in the good town of Slopperton- 
on-the-Sloshy than it rained anywhere ejse. But it did rain. 
There was scarcely an nmbrella in Slopperton that could hold 
its own against the rain that came pourmg down that Novem- 
ber afternoon, between the hours of four and five. Every gutter 
in High Street, Slopperton ; every gutter in Broad Street ^which 
was of course the narrowest street) ; in New Street (which by 
the same rule was the oldest street) ; in East Street, West 
Street, Blue Dragon Street, and Windmill Street ; every gutter 
in every one of these thoroughfares was a little Niagara, with a 
maelstrom at the comer, down which such small craft as bits of 
orange-peel, old boots and shoes, scraps of paper, and fragments 
of rag were absorbed — as better ships have been in the great 
northern whirlpool. That dingy^ stream, the Sloshy, was swollen 
into a kind of dirty Mississippi, and the graceful coal-barge« 
which adorned its bosom were stripped of the clothes-lines and 
fluttering linen which usually were to be seen on their decks. 
A bad, determined, black-mmded November day. A day on 
which the fog shaped itself into a demon, and lurked behind 
men's shoulders, whispering into their ears, " Cut your throat ' 
— ^you know you've got a razor, and can't shave wiui it, becausfl 
you've been drinking and your hand shakes ; one little gash 
nnder the left ear, and the business is done. It's tibie best thing 
you can do. It is, really." A day on wnich the rain, tht 
aannotonong ceaseless persevering raau, l[ia.« a Ncfvic^ «j& '-^ <^\s\^% 



6 The -Trail of the Serpent. 

clown, and Bays, "Don't yon think you conld go melancholy 
mad P Look at me ; be good enough to watch me for a couple 
of hours or so, and think, while you watch me, of the girl who 
jUted you ten years ago ; and of what a much better man you 
would be to-day if she had only loved you truly. 01^ I think, if 
you'll only be so good as watch me, you mignt really contrive 
to go mad/* Then again the wind. What does the wind say, 
as it comes cutting tm*ou^h the dark passage, and stabbing you, 
like a coward as it is, in the back, just between the shoulders— 
what does it sayP Why, it whistles in your ear a reminder of 
the little bottle of laudanum you've got upstairs, which you had 
for your toothache last week, and never used. A foggy wet 
windy November day. A bad day — a dangerous day. Keep us 
from bad thoughts to-day, and keep us out of the Police Eeports 
next week. Give us a glass of something hot and strong, and a 
bit of something nice for supper, and bear with us a little this 
day ; for if the stnngs of yonder piano — an instrument fashioned 
on mechamcal prmcTplesty mortal hancU-if thevare depressed 
and slackened by the influence of damp and fog, how do we 
know that there may not be some string in this more critical 
instrument, the human mind, not made on mechanical principles 
or by mortal hands, a little out of order on this bad iNovember 
dayP 

But of course bad influences can only come to bad men; and 
of course he must be a very bad mau whose spirits go up and 
down with every fluctuation of the weather-glass. Yirtuous 
people no doubt are virtuous always; and by no chance, or 
change, or trial, or temptation, can they ever become other than 
virtuous. Therefore why should a wet day or a dark day depress 
them P No ; they look out of the windows at houseless men 
and women and fatherless and motherless children wet through 
to the skin, and thank Heaven that they are not as other men : 
like good Christians, punctual rate-payers, and unflinching 
church-goers as they are. 

Thus it was with Mr. Jabez North, assistant and usher a'b 
the academy of Dr. Tappenden. He was not in anywise 
afiected by fog, rain, or wind. There was a fire at one end of 
the schoolroom, and Allecompain Major had been fined sixpence, 
and condemned to a page of^ Latin grammar, for surreptitiously 
wanning his worst chilblain at the bars thereof. But Jabe?; 
Korth did not want to go near the fire, though in his official 
capacity he might have done so ; ay, even might have warmed 
his hands in moderation. He was not cold, or if he was cold, 
he didn't mind being cold. He was sitting at his desk, mending 
pens and hearing six red-nosed boys conjugate the verb Ama/re, 
** to love " — ^while the aforesaid boys were giving practical iUua- 



The Good Sehoolmagter. 7 

trationB of tlie active verb "to sbiver," — and thepasedve ditto, 
" to be puzzled." He was not only a good yonng man, this Jabes 
North (and he mnst have been a very good young man, for his 
goodness was in almost every month in Slopperton — ^indeed, he 
was looked upon by many excellent old ladies as an incarnation 
of the adjective "pious*')-— but he was rather a handsome young 
man also. He had delicate features, a pale fair complexion, and, 
as young women said, very beautiful blue eyes ; only it was 
unfortunate that these eyes, oerag, according to report, such a 
veiy beautiful colour, had a shifting way with them, and never 
looked at you long enough for you to find out their exact hue, or 
their exact expression either. He had also what was called a 
very fine head of fair curly hair, and what some people con- 
sidered a very fine head — ^though it was a pity it shelved off on 
either side in the locality where prejudiced people place the organ 
of conscientiousntjss. A professor of phrenology, lecturing at 
Slopperton, had declared Jabez North to be singularly wanting 
in that small virtue ; and had even gone so far as to hint that 
he had never met with a parallel case of deficiency in the entire 
moral region, except in the sknll of a very distinguished crimi- 
nal, who invited a friend to dinner and murdered him on the 
kitchen stairs while the first course was being dished. But of 
course the Sloppertonians pronounced this professor to be an 
impostor, and his art a piece of charlatanism, as they were only 
too happy to pronounce any professor or any art that came in 
their way. 

Slopperton believed in Jabez North. Partly because Slopper- 
ton had in a manner created, clothed, and fed him, set him on 
his feet, patted him on his head, and reared him under the 
shadow of Sloppertonian wings, to be the good and worthy indi- 
vidual he was. 

The story was in this wise. Nineteen years before this bad 
November day, a little baby had been dragged, to all appearance 
drowned, out of the muddy waters of the Sloshy. Fortunately 
or unfortunately, as the case may be, he turned out to be 
less drowned than dirty, and after being subjected to very 
nharp treatment — such as being held head downwards, and 
licrubbed raw with a jack-towel, by the Sloppertonian Humane 
Society, founded by a very excellent gentleman, somewhat re- 
aowned for maltreating his wife and turning his eldest son out 
of doors — ^this helpless infant set up a feeble squall, and evinced 
other signs of a return to life. He was found in a Slopperton 
river by a Slopperton bargeman, resuscitated by a Slopperton 
society, and taken by the Slopperton beadle to tbe Slopperton 
workhouse; he therefore belonged to Slopperton. Slopperton 
found him a species of barnacle rather difficult t« «itk»k3b ^^. 



8 The Trail of the Serpent, 

The wisest tiling, therefore, for Slopperton to do, was to put the 
best face on a bad matter, and, out of its abundance, rear this 
un- welcome little stranger. And truly yirtue has its reward : 
for. from the workhouse brat to the Sunday-schoolteacher; from 
the Sunday-school teacher to the scrub at Dr. Tappenden's aca* 
demy ; from scrub to usher of the fourth form ; and from fourth 
form usher to first assistant, pet toady, and factotum, were so 
many steps in the ladder of fortune wmch Jabez mounted, as in 
■even-leaded boots. 

As to nis name, Jabez Korth, it is not to be supposed that 
when some wretched drab (mad with what madness, or wretched 
to what intensity of wretchedness, who shall ^essP) throws 
her hapless and sickly ofisprine into the riyer — ^it is not, I say, 
to be supposed that she puts nis card-case in his pocket, with 
his name and address inscribed in neat copper-plate upon ena- 
melled cards therein. No, the foundling of Slopperton was 
called by the board of the workhouse Jabez ; first, because Jabez 
was a scriptural name; secondly, perhaps, because it was an 
ugiy one, and agreed better with the cut of his clothes and ihib 
faslJon of his appointments than Reginald, Conrad, or Augus- 
tus might have done. The gentlemen of the board further 
bestowed upon him the surname of North because he was 
found on the north bank of the Sloshy, and because North 
was an unobtrusive and commonplace cognomen, appropriate 
to a pauper; like whose impudence it would indeed oe to 
write nimself down Montmorency or Fitz-Hardinge. 

Now there are many natures (Grod-created though they be) of so 
black and vile a tendency as to be soured and embittered by work- 
house treatment; by constant keeping down ; by days and d&js 
which grow into years and years, m which to hear a kind word is 
to hear a strange language — a language so strange as to bring a 
choking sensation into the throat, and not unbidden tears into 
the eyes. Natures there are, so innately wicked, as not to be 
improved by tyranny ; by the dominion, the mockery, and the 
insult of little boys, who are wise enough to despise poverty, 
but not charitable enough to respect misfortune. And fourth- 
form ushers in a second-rate academy have to endure this sort 
of thing now and then. Some natures too may be so weaK and 
sentimental as to sicken at a life without one human tie ; a boy- 
hood without father or mother; a youth without sister or 
brother. Not such the excellent nature of Jabez North. Tyranny 
found him meek, it is true, but it lefb him much meeker. Insult 
found him mild, but it lefb him lamb-like. Scornful speeches 
grlanced away from him ; cruel words seemed drops of water on 
marble, so powerless were they to strike or wound. He would 
ti4ke an insult from a boy whom with his powerful right hand b< 



Tiie Good Schoolmaster. 9 

oonld liave "strangled: lie wonld gmile at the insolence of a brat 
whom lie could nave thrown from the window with one uplifting 
of his strong arm almost as easily as he threw away a bad pen. 
But he was a good young man; a benevolent young man; giving 
in secret, and generally getting his reward openly. His left 
hand scarcely Imew what his right hand did; but Slopperton 
always knew it before long. So every citizen of the borough 
(jraised and applauded this model yoong man, and many were 
^e prophecies of the day wbeo the pauper boy should oe one 
of the greatest men in that greatest of aU towns, the town of 
Blopperton. 

The bad November day merged into a bad November night. 
Dark night at five o'clock, when candles, few and far between, 
flickering in Dr. Tappenden's scli{K)lroom, and long rows of halt- 
pint mugs — splendid institutions for Httle boys to warm their 
hands at, being full of a boiling and serai-opaque liquid, '^ar 
excellence milk-and-walier— ornamented the schoolroom taole. 
Darker night still, when the half-j)int mugs have been collected 
by a red maid-servant, ^vith noge, elbows, and knuckles picked 
out in purple ; when all traces of the evening meal are removed; 
when tne six red-nosed first-form boys have sat down to Vii'gil 
— for whom they entertam a deadly hatred, feeling convinced 
that he wrote with special view to their being flogged from in- 
ability to oonstrne him. Of .ourse, if he hadn't been a spiteful 
beast ^e wonld have written in English, and then he woul'^n't 
have hfiu «*o Ik3 c<jni»trued D'irker night still at eiffht o'c.'ock, 
when the boys have gone to bed, and perhaps would have goije 
to sleep, if Allccompain Major had not a supper-party it bis 
room, with Banbury cakes, pigs' trotters, periwinkles, acid rouk, 
and ginger-bet r powders, laid ou- upon the bolster. Not so dark 
by the head assistant's desk, at wlmOi Jabez sits, his face inef- 
fably calm, examining a pile of exoicises. Look at his face by 
that one candle ; look at the eyes, which are steady now, for lie 
does not dream that any one is watching him — steady and lumi- 
nous with a subdued fire, which might blaze out some day into 
a deadly flame. Look at the face, the determined mouth, the 
thin lips, which form almcst an arch — and say, is that the face 
of a man to be content wi^Ji a life of dreary and obscure rnonr>- 
tony? A somewhat intellectual face; but not the face of >« 
man with an intellect seeking no better employment than tl-n 
correcting of French and Latin exercises. If we could \<*^M 
into his heart, we might find the answers to these questions. 
He raises the lid of his desk; a deep desk that holds man^^ 
things — ^paper, pens, letters: and what? — a thick coil of ropj'. 
A Strang^ object in the assistant's desk, this coil of rope! H« 
looks at it as if to assure h 3«&self that, it ii &?i£« \ i^\i\ji^ i^*^ ^^^^ 



10 The Trail of tie Serpent. 

quickly, locks it, puts the key in his waistcoat-pocket ; and when 
at halt-past nine he goes up into his little bedroom at the top 
of tiie nousei he will carry the desk nnder his arm. 



CHAPTEB n. 

GOOD POR NOTHING. 

The November night is darkest, foggiest, wettest, and windiest 
out on the open road that leads into Slopperton. A dreary road 
•at the best of times, this Slopperton road, and dreariest of all 
in one spot about a mile and a iialf out of the town. Upon this 
spot stands a solitary house, known as the Black Mill. It was 
once the cottage of a miller, and the mill still stands, though in 
disuse. 

The cottage had been altered and improved within the last 
few years, and made into a tolerable-sized house; a dreary, 
rambling, tumble-down place, it is true, but still with some pre- 
tension about it. It was occupied at this time by a widow lady, 
a Mrs. Marwood, once the owner of a large fortune, which had 
nearly all been squandered by the dissipation of her only son. 
This son had long left Slopperton. His mother had notneard 
of him for years. Some said he had gone abroad. She tried to 
hope this, but sometimes she mourned him as dead. She lived 
in modest style, with one old female servant, who had been with 
her since her marriage, and had been faithful through every 
change of fortune — ^as these common and unlearned creatures, 
strange to say, sometimes are. It happened that at this very 
time Mrs. Marwood had just received the visit of a brother, who 
had returned from the East Indies with a large •fortune. This 
brother, Mr. Montague Harding, had on his land^g in England 
hastened to seek out his only sister, and the arrival of the 
wealthy nabob at the solitary house on the Slopperton road had 
been a nine days' wonder for the good citizens of Slopperton. 
He brought with him only one servant, a half-caste ; ms visit 
was to be a short one, as he was about buying an estate in the 
south of England, om which he intended to reside with his 
widowed sister. 

Slopperton had a great deal to say about Mr. Harding. 
Slopperton gave him credit for the possession of uncounted and 
uncountable lacs of rupees ; but Slopperton wouldn't give him 
credit for the possession of the hundredth part of an ounce of 
liver. Slopperton left cards at the Black Mill , and had serious 
thoughts of getting up a deputation to invite the rich East 
Indian to represent its inhabitants at the great congress of 
V/eatminater. But both Mr. Harding and Mrs. Marwood kc;>t 



Good for Nofhvng, 11 

aloof from Slopperton, and were set down accordingly as mjste- 
rions, not to say dark-minded indiyidnals, forthwito. 

The brother and sister are seated in the little, warm, lamp-lit 
drawing-room at the Black Mill this dark November night. 
She is a woman who has once been handsome, but whose beanty 
has been fretted away by anxieties and suspenses, which wear 
out the strongest hope, as water wears away the hardest rock. 
The Anglo-Indian ver^ much resembles her; but though his 
face is that of an invalid, it is not care-worn. It is the face of 
a good man, who has a hope so strong that neither fear nor 
trouble can disquiet him. 

He is speaking — " And you have not heard from your son P " 

"For nearly seven years. Seven years of cruel suspense; 
seven years, during which every knock at yonder door seems to 
have beaten a blow upon my heart — every footstep on yonder 
garden-walk seems to have trodden down a hope." 

** And you do not think him deadP " 

"I hope and pray not. Not dead, impenitent; not dead, 
without my blessing ; not gone away from me for ever, without 
one pressure of the hand, one prayer for my forgiveness, one 
whisper of regret for all he has made me suffer.** 

" He was very wild, then, very dissipated P '* 

" He was a reprobate amd a gambler. He squandered his 
money like water. He had bad companions, I know; but was 
not hunself wicked at heart. The very night he ran away, the 
night I saw him for the last time, I*m sure he was sorry ror his 
bad courses. He said something to that effect ; said his road 
was a dark one, but that it had only one end, and he must go 
on to the end.'* 

" And you made no remonstrance? " 

"I was tired of remonstrance, tired of prayer, and had wearied 
ont my soul with hope deferred." 

" My dear Agnes ! And this poor boy, this wretched mis- 

giided boy. Heaven have pity upon mm and restore him! 
eaven have pity upon every wanderer, this dismal and pitiless 
night!** 

Heaven, indeed, have pity upon that wanderer, out on the 
bleak highroad to Slopperfcon ; out on the shelterless Slopperton 
road, a mile away fiim the Black Mill ! The wanderer is a 
young man, whose garments, of the shabby-genteel order, are 
worst of all fitted to keep out the cruel weattier ; a handsomo 
young man, or a man wno has once been handsome, but on 
whom riotous davs and nights, drunkenness, recklessness, and 
folly, have had their dire effects. He is struggling to keep a 
oad cigar alight, and when it goes out, wldch. \a ^2wsts^ Wv<sfe^s^ 



12 The Trail of the Serpent 

five minutes, lie ntters expressions which in Slopperton are 
thought very wicked, and consi^s that good city, with its vir- 
tnoiis citizens, to a very bad neighbonrhood. 

He talks to himself between his straggles with the cigar. 
*' Foot-sore and weary, hungry and thirsty, cold and iU ; it is not 
a very hopefol way for the only son of a rich man to come back 
to his native place after seven years' absence. I wonder what 
•tar presides over my vagabond existence ; if I knew, Fd shake 
my fist at it," he muttered, as he looked up at two or three 
feeble luminaries glimmering through the rain and fog. " An- 
other mile to the Black Mill — and then what will she say 
to me P What can she say to me but to curse me P What 
have I earned by such a life as mine except a mother's 
curse P '* His cigar chose this Ycrj moment of all others to go 
out. If the bad three-halfpenny Havannah had been a sentient 
thing with reasoning powers, it might have known better. He 
threw it aside into a ditch with an oath. He slouched his hat 
over his eyes, thrust one hand into the breast of his coat — (he 
had a stick cut from some hedgerow in the other) — and walked 
with a determined though a weary air onward through slush 
and mire towards the Black Mill, from which already the lighted 
windows shone through the darkness like so many beacons. 

On through slush and mire, with a weary and slouching step. 

"No matter. It is the step for which his mother has waited 
for seven lonff years ; it is the step whose ghostly echo on l^e 
garden-walk has smitten so often on her heart and trodden out 
the light of hope. But surely the step comes on now — full 
surely, and for good or ill. Whether for good or ill comes 
this long-watched-for step, this bad November night, who shall 

say P 

In a quarter of an hour the wanderer stands in the little gar- 
den of the Black Mill. He has not courage to knock at the 
door; it might be opened by a stranger; he might hear some- 
thing he dare not whisper to his own heart — ^he might hear 
something which would strike him down dead upon the threshold. 

He sees the light in the drawing-room windows. He ap- 
proaches, and hears his mother's voice. 

It is a long time since he has uttered a prayer : but he falls 
on his knees Dy the long French window and breathes a thanks- 
giving. 

That voice is not still ! 

What shall he do P What can ho hope from his mother, so 
erueUy abandoned P 

At this moment Mr. Harding opens the window to look out at 
the dismal night. As he does 80« the young man falls fainting^ 
exhausted, into the roon^ . 



Good for 2fbfhi%g. 13 

Draw a cnrtaiii over the agitation and the bewilderment of 
that scene. The abnost broken-hearted mother's joy is toe 
sacred for words. And the passionate tears of the prodigal son 
— ^who shall measure the remorsefdl agony of a man whose life 
has been one long career of recklessness, and who sees his sin 
written in his mo&er's face? 

The mother and son sit together, talking gravely, hand in 
hand, for two long hours. He teUs her, not of aU his follien, 
but of aU his regrets — ^his punishment^ his anguish, his peni- 
tence, and his resolutions for the fature. 

Surely it is for good, and good alone, that he has come over a 
long and dreary road, through toil and suffering, to kneel here 
at his mother's feet and build up fair schemes for the fature. 

The old servant, who has known Eichard from a babv, shares 
m his mo"ttier*s joy. After the slight supper which the weary 
wanderer is induced to eat, her brother and her son persuade 
Mrs. Marwood to retire to rest; and left tete-ortete, tne uncle 
and nephew sit down to discuss a bottle of old madeira by the 
sea-coal fire. 

"My dear Richard" — the young man's name is Richard — 
(" Daredevil Dick " he has been called by his wild companions) 
— " My dear Richard," says Mr. Harding very gravely, " I am 
about to say something to you, which I trust you will take in 
good part." 

" I am not so used to kind words from good men that I am 
likely to take anything you can say amiss. 

" X ou will not, then, doubt the joy I feel in your return this 
night» if I ask you what are your plans for the rature P " 

The young man shook his head. Poor Richard ! he had never 
ia his fife had any definite plan for the future, or he might not 
nave been what he was that night. 

" My poor boy, I believe you have a noble heart, but you have 
led a wasted life. This must be repaired." 

Richard shook his head again. He was very hopeless of 
himself. 

" I am good for notlung," he said ; " I am a bad lot. I wonder 
they don't hang such men as me." 

"I wonder they don't hang such men." He uttered this 
recHess speech in nis ovm reckless way, as if it would be rathe** 
a good joke to be hung up out of the way and done for. 

" My dear boy, thanK Heaven you have returned to us. Now 
I have a plan to make a man of ^on yet." 

Bichard looked up this time with a hopeful light in his dark 
eyes. He was hopeless at five minutes past ten ; he was radiant 
when the minuteliand had moved on to Ih^ xvex^. ^^0:1^ ^T!L*vi^^ 



14 The Trail oj the Serpmi. 

diaL He was one of those men whose bad and good angelf 
haTe a sharp fight and a constant struggle, bnt whom we aH 
hope to see saved at last. 

" I have a ^lan which has occorred to me since yonr nnexpec- 
ted arrival this evening/' conlanned his nnde. " Kow, if yon 
stay here, yonr mother, who has a trick (as all loving mothers 
have) of fancyins^ yon are still a little boy in a pimtfore and 
frock— yonr momer will be for having yon loiter abontfrom 
momirig till night with nothing to do and nothing to care for; 
you wiU faU in again with aU jonr old Slopperton companions, 
and all those companions' bad nabits. This isn't the way to make 
a man of yon, Eichard." 

Eichard, very radiant by this time, thinks not. 

" My plan is, that yon start off to-morrow mominff before 
yonr mother is np, with a letter of introdnction whidi I will 
give you to an old friend of mine, a merchant in the town of 
Grardenford, forty miles from here. At my request, he vnll give 
you a berth in his office, and vnll treat you as if you were his 
own son. You can come over here to see your mother as often 
as you like ; and if you choose to work hard as a merchant's 
clerk, so as to make your own fortune, I know an old fellow just 
returned from the East Indies, with not enough liver to keep 
him alive many years, who will leave you another fortune to 
add to it. What do yon say, Eichard P Is it a bargain P" 

" My dear generous nnde ! " Eichard cries, shakmg the old 
man by the hand. 

Was it a bargain P Of course it was. A merchant's office — 
the very thing for Eichard. He would work hard, work night 
and day to repair the past, and to show the world there was 
stuff in him to make a man, and a good man yet. 

Poor Eichard, half an hour ago wishing to be hung and put 
out of \hQ way, now fall of radiance and hope, while the good 
angel has the best of it ! 

"You must not begin your new life without money, Eichard r 
I shall, therefore, give you all I have in the house. I think I 
cannot better show my confidence in you, and my certainty that 
you will not return to your old habits, than by giving yon this 
money." Eichard looks — ^he cannot speak his gratitude. 

The old man conducts his nephew up stairs to his bedroom, 
an old-fashioned apartment, in one window of which is a hand- 
some cabinet^ half desk, half bureau. He unlocks this, and 
takes &om it a pocket-book containing one hundred and thirty- 
odd pounds in small notes and ^old, and two bills for one hundred 
pounds each on an Anglo-Indian bank in the city. 

"Take this, Bichard. Use the broken cash as yon require it 
for present purposes — ^in purchasing such an outnt as becomes 



Chad far Nothing, 15 

my nephew ; and on your arrival in Gardenfoid, place the bills 
in the Dank for fntore exigencies. And as I wish yonr mother 
to know nothing of our little plan until yon are gone, the best 
thing yon can do is to start oefore any one is np — ^to-morrow 
morning." 

"I will start at day-break. I can leave a note for my 
mother." 

" No, no," said the nnde, " I will tell her all. Yon can write 
directly yon reach yonr destination. Now, yon vnll think it 
cmel of me to ask yon to leave yonr home on the very night of 
yonr return to it; out it is qnite as well, my dear boy, to strike 
while the iron's hot. If yon remain here yonr good resolntions 
maybe vanquished by old influences; for the best resolution, 
Bichard, is but a seed, and if it doesn't bear the fruit of a good 
action, it is less than worthless, for it is a lie, and promises what 
it doesn't perform. I've a higher opinion of you than to think 
that yon broxight no better fruit of your penitence home to your 
loving mother than empty resolutions. I believe you have a 
steady determination to reform." 

" You only do me justice in that belief, sir. I ask nothing 
better than the opportunity of showing that I am in earnest." 

Mr. Harding is quite satisfled, and once more suggests that 
Bichard should depart very early the next day. 

"I will leave this house at five in the morning," said the 
nephew ; " a train starts for Gurdenford about six. I shall creep 
out quietly, and not disturb any one. I know the way out of 
the dear old house — I can get out of the drawing-room window, 
and need not unlock the h^-door; for I know that good stupid 
old woman Martha sleeps with the key under her pillow." 

" Ah, by the bye, where does Martha mean to put you to- 
night P " 

" In the little back parlour, I think she said ; the room under 
this." 

The uncle and nephew went down to this little parlour, where 
they found old Martha making up a bed on the sofa. 

" Yon will sleep very comfortably here for to-night. Master 
Bichard," said the old woman; "but if my mistress doesn't 
have this ceiling mended before long there'll be an accident some 
day." 

They all looked np at the ceiling. The plaster had fallen in 
several places, and there were one or two cracks of consideiable 
size. 

" If it was daylight," grumbled the old woman, "you could 
see through into Mister Harding's bedroom, for his worship 
won't have a caroet/' 



16 TJie Trail of the Serpent. 

His worship said he had not been used to carpets in Indiiv 
and liked the sight of Mrs. Martha's snow-white boards. 

" And it's hard to keep them white, sir, I can tell yon ; for 
when I scour the floor of that room the water runs through 
and spoils the fdmiture down here." 

But Daredevil Dick didn't seem to care much for the dilapi- 
dated ceiling. The madeira, his brightened prospects, and tiie 
excitement he had gone through, all combmed to make him 
thoroughly wearied out. He shook his uncle's hand with a 
brief but energetic expression of gratitude, and then flung him- 
self half dressed upon the bed. 

" There is' an alarum clock in mv room," said the old man, 
" which I will set for five o'clock. I always sleep with my dooi 
open ; so you will be sure to hear it go down. It won't disturb 
your mother, for she sleeps at the other end of the house. An4 
now good night, and God bless you, my boy I " 

He IB gone, and the returned prodigal is asleep. His hand- 
some face has lost half its look of dissipation and care, in, the 
renewed light of hope ; his black hair is tossed off his broad 
forehead, and it is a fine candid countenance, with a sweet 
smile playing round the mouth. Oh, there is stuff in him 
to make a man yet, though he says they should hang such 
fellows as he ! 

His uacle has retired to his room, where his haJf-caste servant 
assists at his toilette for the night. This servant, who is a 
Lascar, and cannot speak one word of English (his master 
converses with him in Hindostanee), and is thought to be as 
faithfdl as a dog, sleeps in a little bed in the dressing-room 
adjoining his master's apartment. 

So, on this bad November night, with the wind howling round 
the walls as if it were an an^ry unadmitted guest that cla- 
moured to come in ; with the ram beating on the roof, as if it had 
a special purpose and was bent on floodmg the old house ; there 
is peace and happiness, and a returned and penitent wanderer 
at the desolate old Black MilL 

The wind this night seems to howl with a peculiar signifi- 
cance, but nobody ha,s the key to its strange lajiguage ; and if, 
in every shrill dissonant shriek, it tries to tell a ghastly secret 
or to give a timely warning, it tries in vain, for no one heeds of 
understaadjh 



Th^ TTshet Washei lis Hdndi. 17 

CHAPTER in. 

TUE T7SHEB WASHES HIS HANDS. 

Hb. Jabez Kobth had not his little room quite to himsolf at Dr. 
Tappenden's. There are some penalties attendant even on being 
a good yonng man, and our friend Jabez sometimes found his 
very virtues rather inconvenient. It happened that Allecom- 
pain Junior was ill of a fever — sometimes delirious ; and as the 
usher was such an excellent young person, beloved by the pupils 
and trusted implicitly by the master, the sick little boy was put 
under his especial care, and a bed was made up for him in Jabez' 
room. 

This very November night, when the usher comes up stairs, 
his great desk under one aonn (he is very strong, this usher), and 
a little feeble tallow candle in his left hand, he finds the boy 
very ill indeed. He does not know Jabez, for he is talking of a 
boat-race — a race that took place in the bright summer gone by. 
He is sitting up on the pillow, waving his little thin hand, and 
crying out at the top of his feeble voice, " Bravo, red ! Red 
wins ! Three cheers for red ! Go it — go it, red ! Blue's beat — 
I say blue's beat I George Harris has won the day. I've 
backed George Harris. I've bet six-pennorth of toffey on George 
Harris ! Go it, red ! " 

" We're worse to-night, then," said the usher ; " so much the 
better. We're off our head, and we're not likely to take much 
notice; so much the better;" and this benevolent youn^ man 
began to undress. To undress, but not to go to bed ; for from a 
small trunk he takes out a dark smock-frock, a pair of leather 
gaiters, a black scratch wig, and a countryman's slouched hat. 
He dresses himself in these things, and sits down at a little 
table with his desk before him. 

The boy rambles on. He is out nutting in the woods with his 
Httie sister in the glorious autumn months gone by. 

" Shake the tree, Harriet, shake the tree ; they'll fall if yon 
only shake hard enough. Look at the hazel-nuts ! so thick you 
can't count 'em. Shake away, Harriet ; and take care of your 
head, for they'll come down like a shower of rain ! " 

The usher takes the coil of rope from his desk, and begins to 
unwind it ; he has another coil in his little trunk, another hidden 
away imder the mattress of his bed. He joins the three to- 
gether, and they form a rope of considerable length. He looks 
round the room ; holds the light over the boy's face, but sees no 
eonsciousness of passing events in those bright feverish eyes. 

He opens the window of his room ; it is on the second story, 
and looks out into the playground — ^a large space shut in from 
Uie lane in which the school stands by a. ^m xA ^:^'ckss^^<^'^^<^ 



^^ l*# J^Hiil qfthe Serpent 

^w\^^\i\^. Atv'iit Imlt' tUd height of this room aore some posti 
i.(tu-.tuil Um: gyiiiumiticM} they are abont ten feet from the wall of 
lUu h(iutH^ yk\\\\ th^ uvher looks at them dnbiously. He lowers 
tku i-ii|iD iiut (li* the window and attaches one end of it to an 
iiMU hiutlft iu t^id wall — a very convenient hook, and very^ secnre 
u|i|iiirii((tly, for it looks as if it had been only driven in that 
vary lUy. 

\\\x Murvtiys the distance beneath him, takes another dnbioas 
Intil lit tliu |)(iHiH in the playground, and is about to step out of 
Uiu wiuiiiiw, wh«n a fooble voice from the little bed cries out — 
U(i(' ill imv <l«IIrlou8 ramblings this time — "What are you doing 
with ilmf rn|)uP Who are youP What are you doing with 
Mmt ruijop" 

iliiliii/ lookM round, and although so good a young man, mutters 
Miuuiithiiig Vfiry much resembling an oath. 

••Hilly boy, don't you know meP I'm Jabez, your old 
IViiJiui - " 

** All, kind old Jabez; you won't send me back in Virgil, 
lituiiiiiHO I've Ixion ill ; eh, Mr. North P " 

" No, no I H<^o, you want to know what I am doing with this 
roi»«i wli^, making a swing, to be sure." 

" A HWin^ P Oh, that's capital. Such a jolly thick rope too ! 
Wlitm Hhall I bo well enough to swing, I wonder P It's so duU 
up liure. I'll try and go to sleep; but I dream such bad 
dreainM." 

**'J'linpo, thoro, go to sleep," says the usher, in a soothing 
voice. Tliin time, before he goes to the window, he puts out his 
tallow candle ; the ruHlilight on the hearth he extinguishes also; 
feels for HoiuDihing in his bosom, clutches this something tightly; 
takes a iirni graHj) of the rope, and gets out of the window. 

A curioiiH way to make a swing I He lets himself down foot 
by foot, with wonder! ul caution and wonderful courage. When 
he gets on a level with the posts of the gymnasium he gives 
himself a sudden jerk, and swinjjing over against them, catches 
hold of the highest post, and his descent is then an easy one 
for the post is notched for the purpose of climbing, and Jabez, 
always good at gymnastics, descends it almost as easily as 
another man would an ordinary staircase. He leaves the rope 
still hanging from his bedroom window, scales the playground 
wall, and when the Slopperton clocks strike twelve is out upoh 
the highroad. He skirts the town of Slopperton by a circuitous 
route, and in another half hour is on the other side of it, bearing 
towards the Black Mill. A curious manner of making a swing 
this midnight ramble. Altogether a curious ramble for this 
ffood younff usher; but even good men have sometimes strougt 
uncieeir ana this may be one oi them. 



The Usher Washes his Hands. IS 

One o'clock from the SloppertoD steeples : two o'clock : three 
o'clock. The sick little boy does not go to sleep, but wanders, 
oh, how wearily, through past scenes in nis yonng life. Midsum- 
mer rambles, Christmas holidays, and merry games; the pretty 
speeches of the little sister who died three years a^o; nnfinished 
tasks and puzzling exercises, all pass through nis wandering 
mind ; and when the clocks chime the quarter after three, he is 
still talking, still rambling on in feeble accents, still tossinp 
wearily on nis pillow. 

As the clocks chime the quarter, the rope is^ at work again, 
and five minutes afterwards the usher clambers into the room. 

Not very good to look upon, either in costume or countenance; 
bad to look upon, with his clothes mud-bespattered and torn ; 
wet to the skin ; his hair in matted locks streaming over his fore- 
head ; worse to look upon, with his light blue eyes, bright with 
a dangerous and wicked fire — ^the eyes of a wild beast baulked 
of his prey ; dreadfdl to look upon, with his hands clenched in 
fury, and his tongue busy with half-suppressed but terrible 
imprecations. 

" All for nothing 1 " he mutters. " All the toil, the scheming, 
and the danger for nothing — all the work of the brain and the 
hands wasted — ^nothing gamed, notlung gained I " 

He hides away the rope in his trunk, and begins to unbutton 
his mud-stained gaiters. The little boy cries out in a feeble 
voice for his medicine. 

The usher pours a tablespoonful of the mixture into a wine* 
glass with a steady hand, aiid carries it to the bedside. 

The boy is about to take it from him, when ne utters a sudder*. 
cry. 

" What's the matter P " asks Jabez, angrily. 

" Your hand ! — ^your hand I "What's that upon your hand ? ' 

A dork stain scarcely dry — ^a dark staiin, at the sight of which 
the boy trembles from nead to foot. 

•* Nothing, nothing I " answers the tutor. " Take your medi- 
cine, and go to sleep." 

No, the Doy cries nystericaUy, he won't take his medicine ; he 
wiU never take aajSing agab from that dreadful hand., «I 
know what that horrid stain is. What have you been doing H 
Why did you dimb out of the window with a rope P It wasn't 
to make a swing; it must have been for something dreadful! 
Why did you stay away three hours in the middle of the night P 
I counted the hours by the church clocks. Why have you got 
those strange clothes on P What does it all mean P 111 ask 
the Doctor to take me out of this room I I'll go to him this 
moment^ for I'm afraid of you." 

The boy tries to get out of bed as he Bpe&k»\ \raL\»^^Ti€tA\ 



il 



20 TJie Trail of t%e Serp^Mt. 

holds him down with one powerful hand, which he places n^n 
the boy's month, at the same time keeping him from stirring 
and preventing him from ciying ont. 

With his free right hand he searches among the bottles on 
the table by the bedside. 

He throws the medicine ont of the glass, and ponrs from 
mother bottle a few spoonfuls of a dark liquid labelled, " Opium 
-Poison ! " 

" Now, sir, take your medicine, or 1*11 report yon to the prin- 
jipal to-morrow morning." 

The boy tries to remonstrate, bub in vain ; the powerful hand 
throws back his head, and Jabez pours the liquid down his 
throat. 

For a little time the boy, quite delirious now, goes on talking 
of the summer rambles and the Christmas games, and then falls 
into a deep slumber. 

Then Jabez North sets to work to wash his hands. A curious 
young man, with cuiious fashions for doing things— above all, a 
curious fashion of washing his hands. 

He washes them very carefully in a small quantity of water, 
and when they are quite clean, and the water has become a dark 
and ghastly colour, he drinks it, and doesn't make even one wry 
face at tlfe horrible draught. 

"Well, weU," he mutters, "if nothing is gained by to-night's 
work, I have at least tried my strength, and I now know what 
I'm made of." 

Very strange stuff he must have been made of— very strange 
and perhaps not very good stuff, to be able to look at the bed 
on wliich ttie ionocent and helpless boy lay in a deep slumber, 
and say, — 

" At any rate, Tie will tell no tales." 

No ! he will tell no tales, nor ever talk again of summer ram- 
bles, or of Christmas holidays, or of his dead sister's pretty 
words. Perhaps he will join that wcpt-for little sister in a 
better world, where there are no such good young men as Jabez 
North. 

That worthy gentleman goes dovni aghast, with a white face, 
next morning, to tell Dr. Tappenden that his poor littl« charge 
is dead, and that perhaps he had better break the news to 
Allecompain Major, who is sick after that supper, which, in his 
boyish thoughtlessness, and l^s certainty of nis little brother's 
recovery, he had given last night. 

" Do, yes, by all means, break the sad news to the jxjor boy; 
for I know, North, you'll do it tenderly." 






Bichard Marwood liglits hU Ftpe» 
CHAPTEB IV. 

BICHAED HABWOOD LIGHTS HIS PIPE. 

Dasi DEVIL Dick Hears the alaram at five o'clock, and leavei 
his conch very cautiously. He would like, before he leaves the 
house, to go to his mother's door, if it were only to breathe a 

Erayer upon the threshold. He would Hke to go to his uncle's 
edside, to give one farewell look at the kind mce ; but he has 
promised to be very cautious, and to awaken no one ; so he steals 
quietly out through the drawing-room window — ^the same win- 
dow by which he entered so strangely the preceding evening — 
into tne chill morning, dark as night yet. He pauses in the 
little garden-walk for a minute while he lights his pipe, and 
looks up at the shrouded windows of the famiHar house. " Grod 
bless her ! " he mutters ; " and God reward that good old man, 
for giving a scamp like me the chance of redeeming his honour 1" 

There is a thick fog, but no rain. Daredevil Dick knows his 
way so well, that neimer fog nor darkness are any hindrance to 
him, and he trudges on with a cheery step, and nis pipe in his 
mouth, towards the Slopperton railway station. The station is 
half an hour's walk out of the town, and when he reaches it the 
clocks are striking six. Learning that the train will not start 
for half an hour, he walks up and down the platform, looking, 
with his handsome face and shabby dress, rather conspicuous. 
Two or three trains for different destinations start while he is 
waiting on the platform, and several people stare at him, as hf 
strides up and down, his hands in his pockets, and his weather- 
beaten hat slouched over his eyes — (for he does not want to be 
known by any Slopperton people yet awhile, till his position is 
better) — and when one man, with whom he had been iatimate 
before he left the town, seemed to recognize him, and approached 
as if to speak to him, Eichard turned abruptly on his heel and 
crossed to the other side of the station. ^ 

If he had known that such a little incident as that could have 
a dark and dreadful influence on his life, surely he would have 
iJiought himself foredoomed and set apart for a cruel destiny. 

He strolled into the refreshment-room, took a cup of coffee, 
changed a sovereign in paying for his ticket, bought a news- 
paper, seated himself in a second-class carriage, and in a few 
minutes was out of Slopperton. 

There was only one otner passenger in the carriage — a com- 
mercial traveller; and Bicharii and he smoked their pipes in de- 
fiance of the guards at the stations they passed. When did ever 
Daredevil Dick quail before any authorities P He had faycad «JL\ 



2.5 Tht^ Trail of the Serpeta. 

How Ktreet, ohafftxi Morlborongli Street ont of oonntenanoe^ 
uud luul kept the atation-honse awake all night singing, " W« 
wiiu*t gii home till morning." 

It id ruthur a dull jouruoy at the best of times from Slopper- 
t(Hi \a\ ( hinlonfonl, and on this dark fo^gy November mormng^ 
tif uuirtit), duller than nsual. It was stiU dark at half-past six. 
Tho utiituui was lighted with gas, and there was a Httle lamp in 
tho railway carriage, bnt for which the two travellers wonld not 
have tkx>ii each otlier's faces. Eichard looked ont of the window 
for u fuw luiuutes, got np a little conversation with his fellow 
inivi-llor, which soon flagged (for the yonng man was rather ont 
kA ttpiritd at leaving Ids mother directly after their reconcilia- 
tiou), and tlieii, beinff sadly at a loss to amnse himself, took ont 
his uui'lo's letter to the Gardenford merchant, and looked at the 
rtupiu\siu-i[itiiiii. The letter was not sealed, but he did not take it 
tViiui tliu uuvtilo[ie. " If he said any good of me, it*s a great deal 
luuro ihuu L dodorve," said Eichard to himself; "bnt I'm yonng 
\ oU uud thmv*s plenty of time to redeem the past." 
Tiuu'. Ui rodtk)ui the past ! poor Eichard ! 
lUi l\\l:iti^d the letter abont m his hands, lighted another 
I 4*1^ and ttiuviktul till the train arrived at the Gardenford station. 
V Hot hoi l'(>^'^;.Y November day had set in. 

If UiiK.ird Mar wood had been a close observer of men and 

!ii.Luiu'i.s, Uo uii^^ht have been rather puzzled by the conduct of a 

.\.".\ ih'uk si^t uiau, shabbily dressed, who was standing on the 

'ativiiu wluui Uo vUtsoouded from the carriage. The man was 

.-\'.J^.i<U \\<uUu>; t'orikane one to arrive by this train: and as 

I. v!* I !i it NiUiu» luio hail arrived, for the man looked perfectly 

...^ .\ .1 \\U.'u ho hiul uoauiuHl, with a glance marvellously rapid, 

'.\- .j.x- ii" o\ov\ p:idsuugor who alighted. Bnt who this some 

«i i..^ \ii w tuau tKo ULuu was waiting, it was rather difficult to 

Uo ilul uot u(Ktak to any one, nor approach any one, 

'k' i>'ivai U> havo any mrticnlar purpose in being there 

■ %» i.^'hI !.',lifcU\v at all the travellers. A very minute 

.1 .\{. /v«i 'u\\\\\\ liavo detected in him a slight interest in 

:i!.. .*i' liirhavd Mai'wiH»d; and when l£at individual 

...i '«s';i I li%> .Li alitor utntlleil ont after him, and walked a 



>it \ « k 



. .. ' t k 



*. V 



\:).!i«i \tm vLowu the back street that led from tlie 
'1- V v»u. lS\\iv>utly ho tuime np closer to him, and 
^« t v I » . i i vIn M ui tdou ly uud nncoremonionsly hooked 

^i,. 'x.:* . ^ ^l.^l«,^^l, I thiuk," he said. 

■.* .. i.*'..i.;,.l oi luv u:kme," replied Daredevil Dick, 

Ik, * ..jk ■..;.iu\ l't)rlui[>M you'll oblige me with yours, 

«• '.u«x>:umv«ul^v Irioudly." And the young man 

' >.■ M ''\''. ««« ^'-.j luu froiu that of the stranger ; but the 



Richard Marwood lights hit Fvpe, 2$ 

rtranger waa of an affectioxiate tuin of mmd, and kept his arm 
tighth* hooked in his. 

" Oh, never mind my name," he said : " yonTl learn my name 
fast enough, I dare say. But," he continued, as he caught a 
threatening look in Bichard's eye» " if you want to call me any- 
thing; why, call me Jinks." 

" very well then, Mr. Jinks, since I didn't come to Gh.rden- 
ford to make your acquaintance, and as now, having made your 
acquaintance, I can't say I much care about cultivating it 
farther, why I wish you a very good morning !" As be said 
this, Eichard wrenched his arm from that of the stranger, and 
strode two or three paces forward. 

Not more than two or three paces though, for the afifectiouate 
Mr. Jinks caught him again by the arm, and a friend of Mr. 
Jinks, who had also been lurking outside the station when the 
train arrived, happening to cross over from the other side of the 
street at this very moment, caught hold of his other arm, and 
poor Daredevil Dick, firmly pinioned by these two new-found 
•niends, looked with a puzzled expression from one to the other. 

" Come, come," said Mr. Jiaks, in a soothing tone, " the best 
thing you can do is to take it quietly, and come along with 



me. 



" Oh, I see," said Eichard. " Here's a spoke in the wheel of 
my reform; it's those cursed Jews, I supjjose, have got wind of 
my coming down here. Show us your writ, Mr. Jinks, and teU 
us at whose suit it is, and for what amount P I've got a con- 
siderable sum about me, and can settle it on the spot." 

" Oh, you have, have you ?" Mr. Jinks was so surprised by this 
last speech of Richard's that he was obliged to take off his hat, 
and rub his hand through his hair before he could recover him- 
self. ** Oh 1" he continued, staring at Richard, " Oh ! you've got 
a considerable sum of money about you, have you ? Well, m v 
friend, you're either very green, or you're very cheeky ; and all 
I can say is, take care now you commit yourself. I'm not a 
sheriff's officer. If you'd done me the honour to reckon up my 
nose you might have knowed it " (Mr. Jinks's olfactory organ 
was a decided snub); " and I ain't going to arrest you for debt." 

" Oh, very well then," said Dick ; " perhaps you and your 
affectionate friend, who both seem to be afflicted with rather an 
over-large allowance of the organ of adhesiveness, will be so 
very obhging as to let me go. I'll leave you a lock of my hair, 
as you've taken such a wonderful fancy to me." And with a 
powerful effort he shook the two strangers off him ; but Mr. 
Jinks caught him again by the arm, and Mr. Jinks's friend, 
producing a Dair of handcidFs, locked them on Richard's wristi 
with railroad rapidity. 



>| Tk0 JVail qf the Serpent 

^ Nv^Wa Jm^Hi ytm try it on," said Mr. Jinks. "I didn't want 
^ H«^ H»«^Hii| vou know, if you'd have come auietiv. I've heard 
>vA^ (^tMv^tK Ui n roHpeotable family, so I tihougnt I wouldn't 
'^HmMUMU* jt>u with these here objects of higotiy" (it is to be 
i^vwiH»Hi4»l All'. Jinks means bijouterie);^ "but it seems there's 
\\s\ \\\A\^ tUr iti Hi) come along to the station; we shall catch the 
(v(^M i<h(rt«y tmin, and be in Slopperton before ten. The inquest 
\\\\\\\i iHMUtt \m till to-morrow." 

Mioluu'd loiikod at his wrists, from his wrists to the faces of 
illii l-wii uwu, with an utterly hopeless expression of wonder. 

♦• A m 1 mad," he said, " or drunk, or dreaming? What have 
.ViUi put thuMtt cursed things upon me for? Why do you want 
Ih tul»M ma back to Slopperton? What inquest? Who's 
Aim\ y " 

Mr. Jinks put his head on one side, and contemplated the 
pritfNiiur with the eye of a connoisseur. 

**])ou't he come the ^innocent dodge stunnin*?" he said, 
rathtir to liimself than to his companion, who, by the bye, 
iUruiii^hout the affair had never once spoken. "Don't he do it 
beautiful P Wouldn't he be a first-rate actor up at the Wictoria 
Tlititty ter in London ? Wouldn't he be prime in the * Suspected 
One, or * Gonsalvo the Guiltless?' Vy," said Mr. Jinks, with 
intonse admiration, " he'd be worth his two-pound-ten a week 
and a clear half benefit every month to any manager as is." 

As Mr. Jinks made these complimentary remarks, he and his 
friend walked on. Bichard, puzzled, bewildered, and unresist- 
ing, walked between them towards the railway station; but 
presently Mr. Jinks condescended to reply to his prisoner's 
questions, in this wise : — 

" You want to know what inquest ? Well, a inquest on 
a gentleman what's been barbarously murdered. You want 
to know who's dead? Why, your uncle is the gent as has 
bnen murdered. You want to know why we are going to 
take you back to Slopperton? Well, because we've got a 
warrant to arrest you upon suspicion of having committed 
the murder." 

" My uncle murdered I " cried Eichard, with a face that now 
for the first time since his arrest betrayed anxiety and horror; 
for throughout his interview with Mr. Jinks he had never once 
seemed fnghtened. His manner had expressed only utter bewil- 
derment of mind. 

" Yes, murdered ; his throat cut from ear to ear." 

" It cannot be," said Eichard. " There must be some horrid 
mistake here. My uncle. Montage Harding, murdered! I 
bade him good-bye at twelve last night in perfect health." 

" And uu's morning he was found murdered in his bed; with 



meha^ Maantood li^iU his P^. 25 



ifae eabmei in Ins roam broken cfpeo, and xifled of a po^et-book 
known to oantain npwardfl of Hiiee hnndred poonds. 

**Whjf he gaye me that pocket-boc^ last night. He gaye it 
lo me. I have it here in my breaet-pocket'' 

"You'd better keep that staiyfor the ccmmer,'* said Mr. Jinkai 
* Perhaps he'U believe it" 

** I most be mad, I must be mad," said BicbanL 

Thej had by this time reached the station, and Mr. Jinks 
haying glanced into two or three carriages of the train a1>iut to 
start, selected one of the second-class, and nshered Bichari into 
it. He seated himself by the yonngman^s side, while his silent 
and nnobtrosive friend took his place opposite. The guard 
locked the door, and the train started. 

Mr. Jinks's <jmet friend was exactly one of those people 
adapted to pass m a crowd. He might have passed in a hun- 
dred crowds, and no one of the hundreds of people in any of 
those hundred crowds would have glanced aside to look at him. 

You could only describe him by negatives. He was neither 
rery tall nor very short, he was neither very stout nor very thin, 
neither dark nor fair, neither ugly nor handsome ; but just such 
a medium between the two ex&emities of each as to be utterly 
commonplace and unnoticeable. 

If you looked at his face for three hours together, you would 
in those three hours find only one thin^ in that face that was 
any way out of the common — ^that one thing was the expression 
of the mouth. 

It was a compressed mouth with thin lips, which tightened 
and drew themselves rigidly together when the man thought — 
and the man was almost always thinking : and this was not all, 
for when he thought most deeply the mouth shifted in a palpa* 
ble degree to the Tefb side of his face. This was the only thmg 
remarkable about the man, except, indeed, that he was dumb 
but not deaf, having lost the use of his speech during a terrible 
illness which he had suffered in his youth. 

Throughout Richard's arrest he liad watched the proceedings 
with unswerving intensity, and he now sat opposite the pri- 
soner, thinking deeply, with his compressed lips drawn on one 
aide. 

The dumb man was a mere scrub, one of the very lowest of 
the police-force, a sort of outsider and employe of Mr. Jinks, 
the Gardenford detective ; but he was useful, quiet, and steady, 
and above all, as his patrons said, he was to be relied on, because 
he could not talk. 

He could talk though, in his own way, and he began to talk 
presently in his ovm way to Mr. Jinks ; he began to talk -with 
BIS fingers with a rapidity which seemed maxvellou^. TW 



^6 The Trail of tie Student 

fingers were more actiTe than clean, and made rather a dirtj 
alpnabet. 

'* Ohy hang it,** said Mr. Jinks, after watching him for a 
moment, " yon mnst do it a little slower, if yon want me to 
nnderstand. I am not an electric telegraph." 

The Bcmb nodded, and began agaia with his fingers, verf 
slowly. 

This time Bichard too watched him ; for Eichard knew this 
dnmb alphabet. He had talked whole reams of nonsense with 
it, in days cone by, to a pretty girl at a boarding-school, between 
whom and himself there had existed a platonio attachment, to 
say nothing of a high wall and broken glass bottles. 

Kichard watched the dirty alphabet. 

First, two grimy fingers laid flat npon the dirty palm, N. 
Next, the tip of the grimy forefinger of the right hand npon 
the tip of the grimy third finger of the left hand, ; the next 
letter is T, and the man snaps his fingers — the word is finished. 
Not. Not what P Richard fonnd himself wondering with an 
intense eagerness, which, even in the bewildered state of hia 
mind, surprised him. 

The dumb man began another word — 

G— U— I— L— 

Mr. Jinks cut him short. 

" Not guilty P Not fiddlesticks I What do you know abont 
it, I should like to know P Where did jou get your experience P 
Where did yon get your sharp practice P Wnat school have 
you been formed in, 1 wonder, that you can come out so positive 
with your opinion ; and "^viiau's the value you put your opinion 
at, I wonder P I should be glad to hear what you'd taxe for 
your opinion." 

Mr. Jinks uttered the whole of this speech with the most 
intense sarcasm; for Mr. Jinks was a distinguished detective, 
and prided himself highly on hb acumen ; and was therefore very 
indignant that his sub and scrub should dare to express an 
opimon. 

" My uncle murdered I " said Richard ; " my good, kind, 

generous-hearted uncle ! Murdered in. cold blood I Oh, it is too 
orrible ! " 

The scrub's mouth was very much on one side as Richard 
muttered this, half to himself. 
" And I am suspected of the murder P " 
" Well, yon see, said Mr. Jinks, "there's two or three things 
tell pretty strong against you. Why were yon in such a hurry 
this momiug to cut and ran to GrardenfordP 

" My uncle had recommended me to a merchant's office in thai 
town : see, here is the letter of introduction — ^read it." 



Siehard Marwood ligliU hu Tipe. 27 

••No, it ain't my place," said Mr. Jinks. "The letter's not 
•ealed^ I see, but i mustn't read it, or if I do, I stand the 
ehance of gettin' snnbbed and lectured for goin' beyond my 
dooty : howsnmdever, yon can show it to the coroner. I'm surft 
I should be very glad to see you dear yourself, for Fve heard 
you belong to one of our gooa old county families, and it ain't 
quite the thing to hang such as you." 

Poor Richard 1 His reckless words of the night before came 
back to him : ** I wonder they don't hang such fellows as I 



am. 



« 



And now," 0ays Jinks, "as I should like to make all things 
comfortable, if you're willing to come alon^ quietly with me and 
my friend here, why, I'll move those brackets, because they are 
not quite so ornamental as they're sometimes useful ; and as I'm 
going to light my pipe, why, if you like to blow a doud, too, 
you can." 

With this Mr. Jinks unlocked and removed the handcuffs, ani 
produced his pipe and tobacco. Richard did the same, and 
took from his pocket a match-box in which there was only one 
match. 

** That's awkward," said Jinks, " for I haven't a light about 
me." 

They filled the two jjipes, and lighted the one match. 

Now, all this time Ricnard had held his uncle's letter of intro- 
duction in his hand, and when there was some little difficulty in 
lighting the tobacco from the expiring lucifer, he, without a 
moment's thought, held the letter over the flickering flame, and 
from the burning paper lighted his pipe. 

In a moment he remembered what ne had done. 

The letter of introduction I the one piece of evidence in his 
fevour 1 He threw the blazing paper on the ground and stamped 
on it, but in vain. In spite of all his efforts a few black ashes 
alone remained. 

" The devil must have possessed me," he ezdaimed. " I have 
burnt my unde's letter." 

" Wdt" says Mr. Jinks, " Fve seen many dodges in my time, 
and I've seen a many knowing cards ; but if that isn't the 
neatest dodge, and if you ain't the knowingest card I ever did 
see, blow me." 

" I tell you that letter was in my xmcle's hand ; written to 
his friend, the merchant at Gardenford; and in it he mentions 
having given me the very money you say has been stolen from 
his cabinet." 

" Oh, the letter was all that, was itP And you've lighted your 
{ape wilJi it. You'd better teU IJiat little story before the 
coroner. It will be so very conwincing to the jury." 



i 



S J*# Dail of the Serpent. 

'VUu ttorub, wHh Kia mouth very much to the left, spells oat 
u-iiiu ilia two wprda, ** Not guilty 1" 

** OUj" Buytt Mr, Jinks, " voumeanto stick to your opinion, do 
iui, uow yuu'va formed itP Upon my word, you're too clever 
iiv u luiuutry-towu practice; I wonder they don't send for you 
u{i ut Huuikud Vam ; with your talents, you'd be at the top of 
tUiJ irnu ill no time, I've no doubt." 

Ihiiiutj thu journey, the thick November fog had been gra- 
Uimlly muiuiiitj away, and at this very moment the sun broke 
uui wiili a bright and sudden light that shone full upon the 
UiruaiUjuru uoat-aleeve of Daredevil Dick. 

" Nfcjt guilty !'* cried Mr. Jinks, with sudden energy. " Not 
giiilty I Why, look here! I'm blestif his coat-sleeve isn't covered 
witU'bhKiai" 

Vti«, (ill the shabby worn-out coat the sunlight revealed dark 
liiui ghaatly stains ; and, stamped and branded by those hideous 
iimrkn as a villain and a murderer, Eichard Marwood re-entered 
biM native town. 



CHAPTER V. 

THE HEALING WATEES. 

IN IK Rloshy is not a beautiful river, unless indeed mud is beau- 
til'nl, ibr it is very muddy. The Sloshy is a disagreeable kind 
of (uimpromise between a river and a canal. It is like a canal 
wliuili (after the manner of the mythic frog that wanted to be 
an ox) had seen a river, and swelled itself to bursting in imita- 
tion thoroof. It has quite a knack of swelling and bursting, 
this Hloaliyj it overflows its banks and swallows up a house or 
twt», or takes an impromptu snack off a few outbuildings, once 
or twi<»o a year. It is inimical to children, and has been known 
to diKjk into its muddy bosom the hopes of divers families ; antj 
has all('rwarda gone down to the distant sea, flaunting on itn 
hrcast Billy's straw hat or Johnny's pinafore, as a flag ol 
triumph for having done a little amateur business for th« 
gentleman on the pale horse. 

It has been a soft pillow of rest, too, this muddy breast of 
the Sloshy ; and weary heads have been known to sleep more 
soundly in that loathsome, dark, and slimy bed than on couches 
of down. 

Oh, keep us ever from even whispering to our own hearth 
that our best chance of peaceful slumber might be in such a 

bod I ... 

An ugly, dark, and dangerous river — a river that is alwayj 



The Sealing Waiere, 20 

telling you of trouUe, and anguisli, and weariness of spirit — a 
river that to some poor impressionable mortal creatnres, who 
are apt to be saddened by a cloud or brightened by a simbeam, 
is not healthy to look upon. 

I wonder what that woman thinks of the river P A badly- 
dressed woman carrying a baby, who walks with a slow and 
restless step np and down by one of its banks, on the afternoon 
of the day on which the mnrder of Mr. Montague Harding took 
place. 

It is a very solitary spot she has chosen, on the furthest out- 
skirts of the town of Slopperton; and the town of Slopperton 
beinjj at best a very ugly town, is ugliest at the outskirts, which 
consist of two or tiiree straggling manufactories, a great gaunt 
gaol — ^the stoniest of stone jugs — and a straggling fringe of 
shabby houses, some new and only half-built, others ancient 
■nd half fallen to decay, which hang all round Slopperton hko 
the rags that fringe the edges of a d&ty gannent. 

The woman's baby is fretful, and it may be that the damp 
feggy atmosphere on the banks of the Sloshy is scarcely calcu- 
lated to engender either high spirits or amiable temper in the 
bosom of infant or adult. The woman hushes it impatiently to 
her breasty and looks down at the Httle puny features with a 
strange unmotherly glance. Poor wretch ! Perhaps she scarcely 
thinks of that Httle load as a mother is apt to think of her 
child. She may remember it only as a shame, a burden, and a 
grief. She has been pretty ; a bright country beauty, perhaps, 
a year ago ; but she is a faded, careworn-looking creature now, 
with a pale face, and hollow circles round her eyes. She has 
played the only game a woman has to play, and lost the only 
stake a woman has to lose. 

"I wonder whether he will come, or whether I must wear 
out my heart through another long long day. — ^Hush, hush! 
As if my trouble was not bad enough without your crjdng." 

This IS an appeal to the fretful baby ; but that young gentle- 
man is engaged at fisticuffs with his cap, and has just destroyed 
a handful of its tattered border. 

There is on this dingy bank of the Sloshy a little dingy 
public-house, very old-fashioned, though surrounded by newly- 
ijegun houses. !(t is a little, one-sided, pitiful place, ornamented 
with the cheering announcements of " Our noted Old Tom at 
^d. per quartern ;" and " This is the only place for the real 
Mountain Dew," It is a wretched place, which has never seen 
better days, and never hopes to see better days. The men who 
freanent it are a few stragglers from a factory near, and the 
eomers whose barges are moored in the neighbourhood. These 
ihamble in on dark afternoons, and play at fldl-foura^or cribba^ 



30 The Trail of the Serpent. 

in a little dingy parlour with dirty dog*s-eared cards, scoring 
their points with beer-marks on the stidry tables. Not a very 
a^^vaotiye honse of entertainment this ; but it has an attraction 
for the woman with the baby, for she looks at it wistfully, as 
fiihe paces up and down. Presently she fnmbles in her pocket, 
and produces two or three halfpence — juBt enough, it seems, for 
iier purpose, for she sneaks in at the half-open door, and in a 
few minutes emerges in the act of wiping her lips. 

As she does so, she almost stumbles against a man wrapped 
in a great coat, and with the lower part of his face muffled in a 
thick handkerchief. 

" I thought you would not come," she said. 

"Did youP Then you see you thought wrong. But you 
might have been right, for tclj coming was quite a chance : I 
can't be at your beck and call night and day." 

" I don't expect you to be at my beck and call. I've not been 
used to get so much attention, or so much regard from you as 
to expect that, Jabez." 

The man started, and looked round as if he expected to 
find all Slopperton at his shoulder; but there wasn't a creatur« 
about« 

" You needn't be quite so handy with my name," he said ; 
" there's no knowing who might hear you. Is there any one 
in there P" he asked, pointing to the public-house. 

" No one but the landlord/' 

" Come in, then ; we can talk better there. This fog pierces 
one tc the bones." 

He seejis never to consider that the woman and the child 
have been exposed to that piercing fog for an hour and more, as 
he is above an hour after his appointment 

He leads the way through the bar into the little parlour. 
There are no colliers playing at all-fours to-day, and the dog's- 
eared cards He tumbled in a heap on one of the sticky tables 
amon^ broken clay-pipes and beer-stains. This table is near the 
one wmdow which looks out on the river, and by this window the 
woman sits, Jabez placing himself on the other side of the table. 

The fretfcd baby has fallen asleep, and lies quietly in the 
woman's lap. 

•* What will you take P " 

" A little gin," she answers, not without a certain shame in 
ber tone. 

" So you've found out fhaJb comfort, have you P " He says 
this witn a glance of satisfaction he cannot repress. 

" What other comfort is there for such as me, Jabez P It 
leemed at first to make me foM^ Nothing can do that now. 
— «toept ** 



The Sealing Wafers. 31 

She did not fbiisli this sentence, bnt sat looking with a dnll 
vacant stare at the black waters of the Sloshy, which, as the 
tide rose, washed with a hollow noise against tne brickwork of 
the pathway dose to the window. 




tell me what yon want with me. My time is precious, 
were not, I can't say I should much care about stopping long in 
this place *, it's such a deliciously lively hole and such a charm- 
ing neighbourhood." 

" I hve in this neighbourhood — at least, I ttarve in this 
neighbourhood, Jabez." 

" Oh, now we're coming to it," said the gentleman, with a very 
gloomy face, "we're coming to it. You want some money. 
That's how this sort of thing always ends." 

" I hoped a better end than that, Jabez. I hoped long ago^ 
when I tnought yon loved me " 

" Oh, we're gomg over that ground again, are we P " said he ; 
and with a gesture of weariness, he took up the dog's-eared 
cards on the sticky table before him, and began to build a house 
with them, such as children build in their play. 

Nothing conld express better than this action his thorough 
determination not to listen to what the woman might have to 
say ; but in spite of this she went on — 

" You see 1 was a foolish country girl, Jabez, or I might have 
known better. I had been accustomed to take my father and 
my brother's word of mouth as Bible truth, and had nevet 
known that word to be belied. I did not think, when the man I 
loved with aU my heart and soul — ^to utter forgetfulness of every 
other living creature on the earth, of every duty that I knew to 
man and heaven — I did not think when the man I loved so 
much said this or that, to ask him if he meant it honestly, or 
if it was not a cruel and a wicked lie. Being so ignorant, I did 
not think of that, and I thought to be your wife, as you swore I 
should be, and that this helpless little one lying here might live 
to look up to you as a father, and be a comfort and an honour 
to you." 

To be a comfort and an honour to yon I The fretfal baby 
awoke at the words, and clenched its tmy fists with a spiteful 
action. 

K the river, as a thing eternal in comparison to man — if the 
river had becai a prophet, and had had a voice in its waters 
wherewith to prophesy, I wonder whether it would have cried — 

*' A shame and a cUshonour, an enemy and an avenger in the 
days to come 1 " 

Jabez' card-hoTue had risen to three stories; he took tbA 



32 Tlie Trail of tU Serpent 

do^'s-eared cards one by one in his white hands with a slow 
dehberate touch that never faltered. 

The woman looked at him with a pteons but tearless glance; 
from him to the river ; and back aj^am to him. 

" Yon don't ask to look at the child, Jabez," 

" I don't like children," said he. " I get enongh of children 
at the Doctor's. Children and Latin grammar — and the end so 
far off yet," — he said the last words to himself, in a gloomy 
tone. 

** But your own child, Jabez — ^your own." 

•* As you say," he muttered. 

She rose from her chair and looked full at him — a long long 
gaze which seemed to say, " And this is the man I loved ; this 
IS the man for whom I am lost I " If he could have seen her 
look ! But he was stooping to pick up a card from the ground 
— ^his house of cards was five stones high by this time. 
•*Come," he said, in a hard resolute tone, "you've written 
to me to beg me to meet you here, for you were dying of a bro- 
ken heart; that's to say you have taken to drinking gin (I 
dare say it's an excellent thing to nurse a child upon), and yon 
want to be bought off. How much do you expect? I thought 
to have a sum of money at my command to-day. Never yon 
mind how ; it's no business of yours." He said this savagely, 
as if in answer to a look of inquiry from her ; but she was 
standing with her back turned to mm, looking steadily out of 
the window. 

" I thought to have been richer to-day," he continued, " but 
I've had a disappointment. However, I've brought as much as 
I could afford ; so the best thing yon can do is to take it, and 
get out of Slopperton as soon as you can, so that I may nevei 
Be€^ your wretched white face again." 

He counted out four sovereigns on the sticky table, and then, 
adding the sixth story to his card-house, looked at the frail 
erection with a glance of triumph. 

** And so will I build my fortune in days to come," he mut» 
tered. 

A man who had entered the dark little parlour very softly 
pagsed behind him and brushed against his shoulder at this 
moTHent ; the house of cards shivered, and fell in a heap on the 
table. 

Jabez turned round with an angry look. 

" What the devil did you do that for P " he asked. ^ 

The man gave an apologetic shrug, pointed with his fingers t( 
his lips, and shook his head. 

** On," said Jabez, " deaf and dumb I So much the better." 

The strange ma» seated himself at another table, on which 



Trie nealing Wateri, 38 

the landlord placed a pint of beer; took np a newspaper, and 
seemed absoroiBd in it; but from behind tho cover of tms news- 
paper be watched Jabez with a furtive glance, and his month, 
which was very much on one side, twitchsd now and then wiUi 
a nervous action. 

All this time the woman had never touched the money— 
never indeed turned from the window by which she stood ; but she 
now came up to the table, and took the sovereigns up one by one. 

" After ■vmat you have said to me this day, I would see this 
child starve, hour by hour, and die a slow death before my eyes, 
before I would touch one morsel of bread bought with your 
money. I have heard that the waters of that river are foul and 
poisonous, and death to those who Hve on its bank; but I 
know the thoughts of your wicked heart to be so much more 
foul and so much bitterer a poison, that I would go to that black 
river for pity and help rather than to you." As she said this, 
she threw the sovereigns into his face with such a strong and 
violent hand, that one of them, striking him above the eyebrow, 
3ut his forehead to the bone, and brought the blood gushing 
over his eyes. 

The woman took no notice of his pain, but turning once more 
to the window, threw herself into a chair and sat moodily staring 
out at the river, as if indeed she looked to that for pity. 

The dumb man helped the landlord to dress the cut on Jabez' 
forehead. It was a deep cut, and likely to leave a scar for yeara 
to come. 

Mr. North didn't look much the better, either in appearance 
or temper, for this blow. He did not utter a word to the woman, 
but began, in a hang-dog manner, to search for the money, 
which had rolled away inl^ the comers of the room. He could 
only find three sovereigns ; and though the landlord brought a 
light, and the three men searched the room in every direction, 
the fourth could not be found ; so, abandoning the search, Jabez 
paid his score and strode out of the place vrithout once looking 
at the woman. 

" I've got off cheap from that tiger-cat," he said to himself; 
••but it has been a bad afternoon's work. What can I say about 
my cut face to the governor?" He looked at his watch, a homely 
silver one attached to a black ribbon. "Five o'clock; I shall 
be at the Doctor's by tea-time. I can get into the gymnasium 
the back way, take a few minutes' turn with the poles and 
ropes, and say the accident happened in climbing. They always 
believe what I say, poor dolts." 

His figure was soon lost in the darkness and the fog— so 
dense a log that very few people saw the woman with the fretful 
baby when she emerged from the public-house, and walked along 



U The l^ail of the Serpent, 

the riyer-bank, leaving even the outskirtB of Slopperton behind* 
and wandered on and on till she came to a dreary spot, where 
dismal pollard wiUows stretched their dark and ngly shadows, 
like the bare arms of withered hags, oyer tiie dii^aal waters of 
the lonely Sloshy. 

O river, sometimes so pitiless when thou devonrest youth, 
beanty, and happiness, wilt thon be pitifnl and tender to-night, 
and take a poor wretch, who has no hope of mortal pity, to 
peace and qmet on thy breast? 

O merciless river, so often bitter foe to careless happinesB, 
wilt thon to-night be friend to reckless misery and hopeless 
painP 

God made thee, dark river, and God made the wretch who 
stands shivering on thy bank: and may be, in His bonndless 
love and compassion for the creatures of His hand, He may 
have pity even for those so lost as to seek forbidden comfort ia 
thy heahng waters. 



CHAPTER VL 

TWO coroner's inquests- 
There had not been since the last general election, when George 
An^stns Slashington, ilie Liberal member, had been returned 
against strong Conservative opposition, iik a blaze of triumph and 
a shower of rotten eggs and cabbage-stumps — ^there had not 
been since that great day such excitement in Slopperton as 
there was on the discovery of the murder of Mr. Montague 
Harding. 

A murder was always a CTeat thing for Slopperton. When 
John Boggins, weaver, beat out the brains of Sarah his wife, 
first with the heel of his clog and ultimately with a poker, 
Slopperton had a great deal to say about it — though, of course, 
the slaughter of one " hand" by another was no great thing out 
of the factories. But this murder at the Black Mill was some- 
thing out of the common. Uncommonly cruel, cowardly, and 
unmanly, and moreover occurring in a respectable rank of 
life. 

Round that lonely house on the Slopperton road there was a 
crowd and a bustle throughout that short foggy day on which 
Richard Marwood was arrested. 

Gentlemen of the Press were there, sniffing out, with miracu- 
lous acumen, particulars of the murder, which as yet were known 
to none but the heads of the Slopperton police force. 

Sow jxmny lines at three-halfpence per line these gentlemen 



Two Ooroner*s Inquedi. 35 

wrote oonceming the dreadfnl occurrenoe, without knowing any- 
thing whatever about it, no one unacquainted with the mysteries 
of their art would dare to say. 

The two papers which appeared on Friday had accounts varj • 
ing in every item, and the one paper which appeared on Satur- 
day had a tappy amalgamation ofthe two conflicting accounts 
— demonstranng thereby the triumph of paste and scissors ovei 
penny-a-liners' copy. 

The head officials ofthe Slopperton police, attirftd in plain 
clothes, went in and out of the Black MiU from an early nour 
on that dark November day. Every time they came out, 
though none of them ever spoke, by some strange magic a fresh 
report got current among the crowd. I think the magical pro- 
cess was this : Some one man, auguring from such and such a 
significance in their manner, whispered to his nearest neighbour 
his suggestion of what might nave been revealed to them 
within; and this whispered suggestion was repeated from one 
to anotiier till it grew into a fact, and was still repeated through 
the crowd, while with every speaker it gathered interest until 
it grew into a series of imaginary- facts. 

Of one thing the crowd was lully convinced — ^that was, that 
those grave men in plain clothes, the Slopperton detectives, 
knew aU, and could tell all, if they only chose to speak. And 
yet I doubt if there was beneath the stars more than one person 
who really knew the secret of the dreadful deed. 

The following day the coroner's inquisition was held at a 
respectable hostelry near the Black MiU, whithwr the jury went, 
accompanied by the medical witness, to contemplate the \y^xy 
cf the victim. "With solemn faces they hovered round the \^\ 
cf the murdered man: they took depositions, talked to eaclr 
other in low hushed tones ; and exchanged a few remarks, .t 
a low voice, with the doctor who had probed the deep gashes in 
that cold breast. 

All the evidence that transpired at the inquest only amounted 
to this — "f 

The servant Martha, rising at six o'clock on the previous 
morning, went, as she was in the habit of doing, to the door 
of the old East Indian to call him — ^he being always an 
early riser, and getting up even in winter to study by lamp- 
light. 

Eeceiving, afber repeated knocking at the door, no answer 
the 6LdL woman had gone into the room, and there Had beheld, 
by the feint light of her candle, the awful spectacle of the 
Anglo-Indian lymg on the floor by the bed-side, nis throat cut, 
cruel stabs upon his breast, and a pool of blocA ^"oxt^-v^si^^tLa 
; the cabinet ia the room broken ODesn fiai^Tcai%ej0&^^ ^sA^ 



36 37ie Trail of the Serpent. 

the pocket-book and money whicli it wa43 known to ooutaia 
missing. The papers of the murdered gentleman were thrown 
into confusion and lay in a heap near the cabinet ; and as there 
was no blood upon them, the detectives concluded that ihe 
cabinet had been rifled prior to the commission of the murder. 

The Lascar had been found lying insensible on his bed in the 
little dressing-room, his head cruelly beaten ; and beyond this 
there was nothing to be discovered. The Lascar had been taken 
to the hospital, where little hope was given by the doctors of 
his recovery from the injuries he had received. 

In the first horror and anguish of that dreadful morning Mrs. 
Marwood had naturally inquired for her son; had expressed 
her surprise at his disappearance; and when questioned had 
revealed the history of his unexpected return the night before. 
Suspicion fell at once upon the missing man. His reappearance 
after so many years on the return of his rich uncle ; his secret 
departure from the house before any one had risen — eveiything 
told against him. Inquiries were immediately set on toot at 
the turnpike gates on tne several roads out of Slopperton; and 
at the railway station from which he had started for Gardenford 
by the first train. 

In an hour it was discovered that a man answering iA 
Richard's description had been seen at the station; ha& an 
hour afterwards a man appeared, who deposed to having seen 
and recognized him on the platform — and deposed, too, to 
Richard's evident avoidance of him. The railway clerks re- 
membered giving a ticket to a handsome young man with a 
dark moustache, in a shabby suit, having a pipe m his mouth. 
Poor Richard! the dark moustache and pipe tracked him at 
every stage. "Dark moustache — ^pipe — shabby dress — ^tall — 
handsome face." The clerk who played upon the electric-tele- 
graph wires, as other people play upon the piano, sent these 
vords shivering down the line to the Gardenford station ; from 
the Gardenford station to the Gardenford police-office the words 
were carried in less than five minutes; in five minutes more 
Mr. Jinks the detective was on the platform, and his dumb 
assistant, Joe Peters, was ready outside the station ; and they 
both were ready to recognize Richard the moment they saw 
him. 

O wonders of civilized life ! cruel wonderg, when you help to 
track an innocent man to a dreadful doom* . 

Richard's story of the letter only damaged his case with the 
jury. The fact of his having burned a document of such im- 
portance seemed too incredible to make any impression in hia 
favour. 

Throughout the proceedings there stood in the background a 



1^0 Coromer*9 JkquettM. ^ 

gbablBfy-dresBed man, nith watchM obeerrant ejt^ and m 
nontli Terj modi aa aae side. 

This man was Joseph Peters, the acrab of the detectiTe foroe 
of Grazdeuford. He rarely took his e^ &om Richazd. whn^ 
whh pale bewildered £ihce, dishevelled hair, and sbvenly oostomn^ 
kx>ked perhaps as much Kke guilt as innocenoe. 

The Todict oi the ooioner's jury was, as every one expected 
it would be, to the effect that the deo^ised had be^i wilfully 
murdered by Bichaid Marwood his nephew ; and poor Dick was 
removed immediately to the oonnty gaol on the outskirts of 
Slopperton, there to ne tQl the assizes. 

The excitement in Slopperton, as before observed, was im« 
mense. Slopperton had but one voice — a voice loud in execra* 
tion of the innocent prisoner, horror of the treachery and cruelty 
of the dreadful deed, and pity for the wretched mother of this 
wicked son, whose anguish bad thrown her on a sick bed — but 
who, despite of every proof repeated every hour, expressed her 
assurance of her unfortunate son's innocence. 

The coroner had plenty of work on that dismal November 
day: for from the inquest on the unfortunate Mr. Haitling 
he had to hurry down to a little dingy public-house on the 
liver's bank, there to inquire into the cause of the untimely 
death of a wretched outcast found by some bargemen in the 
Sloshj. 

This sort of death was so common an event in the large and 
thickly-populated town of Slopperton, that the coroner and the 
jury (Hghted by two guttering tallow candles with long wicks, 
at four o'clock on l£at dull afternoon) had very little to say 
about it. 

One glance at that heap of wet, torn, and shabby garments — 
one half-shuddering, half-pityiu^ look at the white face^ blue 
hps, and damp loose auDum nair, and a merciful verdict — 
•* JFound drowned." 

One juryman, a butcher — (we sometimes think them hard- 
hearted, these butchers) — ^lays a gentle hand upon the auburn 
hair, and brushes a lock of it away from the pale forehead. 

Perhaps so tender a touch had not been laid upon that head 
for two long years. Perhaps not since the day when the dead 
woman left her native village, and a fond and happy mother for 
the last time smoothed the golden braids beneath her daughter's 
Sunday bonnet. 

In lialf an hour the butcher is home by his cheerful fireside ; 
and I think he has a more loving and protecting glance than 
usual for the fair-haired daughter who pours out his tea. 

No one recognizes the deaa woman. N"o one knows bet «t(c\T^\ 
they guess at it qjb a very common Taiatox^, Wi^ Wx^\x«t >a5k% 



38 



The Trail of the Setpefvi, 



parish bnTying-groxuid — a damp and dreary spot not fai from 
Ihe river's orink, in wbicli many snch as she are laid. 

Our friend Jabez North, borrowinff the Saturday's paper <d 
his principal in the evening after s^ool-honrs, is very tnuoli 
Interested in the acconnts of these two coroner's inqnests. 



CHAPTER YIL 

THE DUMB DETECTIVE A PHILAITEILRGPIST. 

The dreary winter months pass by. Time, slow of foot to some, 
and fast of wing to others, is a very chameleon, such different 
accounts do different people give of him. 

He is very rapid in his flight, no doubt, for the young gentle- 
men from Dr. Tappenden's home for the Christmas hohdays : 
rapid enough perhaps for the young gentlemen's papas, who 
have to send their sons back to the academy armed with Dr. 
Tappenden's little account — which is not such a very httle 
a<jcount either, when you reckon up aU the extras, such as 
dancing, French, gymnastics, driU-serjeant, hair-cutting, station- 
ery, servants, and pew at church. 

Fast enough, perhaps, is the flight of Time for Allecompain 
Major, who goes home in a new suit of mourning, and who 
makes it sticky about the cuffs and white about the elbows before 
the holidays are out. I don't suppose he forgets his little dead 
brother ; and I dare say, by the blazing hearth, where the fire- 
light falls dullest upon his mother's black dress, he sometimes 
thinks very sadly of the little grave out in the bleak winter 
ni«:ht, on which the snow falls so purely white. But " cakes 
and ale " are eternal institutions ; and ii you or I, reader, died 
to-morrow, the baker would still bake, and Messrs. Barclay and 
Perkins would continue to brew the ale and stout for which they 
are so famous, and the friends who were sorriest for us would 
eat, drink, ay and be merry too, before long. 

Who shall say how slow of foot is Tmie to the miserable 
young man awaiting his trial in the dreary gaol of Slopperton f 

Who shall say how slow to the mother awaiting in agony ths 
result of that trial? 

Th^ assizes take place late in February. So, through the fog 
iiid damp of gloomv November ; througn long, dark, and dreary 
December nights ; through January frost and snow — (of whosa 
outward presence he has no better token than the piercing cold 
within) — d&ichard paces up and down his narrow cell, and broods 
apon the murder of his unde, and of his trial which is to come. 

Ministers of religion come to convert him, as they say. Mg 



The Dumh Detective a Fhilantliropisi, 39 

tells them that lie hopes and believes all thej can teacli him, 
for that it was taught him in years gone by at his mother's 
knee. 

" The best proof of my faith," he says, ** is that I am not 
mad. Do yon think, if X did not believe in an All-seeing Pro- 
vidence, I should not go stark staring mad, when, night after 
night, through hours which are as years in duration, I think, 
and think, of the situation in which I am placed, till my brain 
grows wild and my senses reel P I have no hope in the result 
of my trial, for I feel how every circumstance tells against me : 
but I have hope that Heaven, with a mighty hand, and an 
instrument of its own choosing, may yet work out the saving 
of an innocent man from an ignominious death." 

The dumb detective Peters had begged to be transferred from 
Gardenford to Slopperton, and was now in the employ of the 
police force of that town. Of very little account tms scrub 
among the officials. His infirmity, they say, makes him scarcely 
worth his salt, though they admit that his industry is unfailing. 

So the scrub awaits the trial of Eichard Marwood, in whose 
fortunes he takes an interest which is in no way abated since he 
Bpelt out the words " Not guilty " in the railway carriage. 

He had taken up his Slopperton abode in a lodgmg in a 
small street of six-roomed houses yclept Little Gulliver Street. 
At No. 5, Little GuUiver Street, Mr. Peters' attention had been 
attracted by the announcement of the readiness and wiUingness 
of the occupier of the house to take in and do for a single gen- 
tleman. ^&x, Peters was a single gentleman, and he accordingly 
presented himself at No. 5, expressing the amiable desire of 
oeing forthwith taken in and done for. 

The back bedroom of that establishment, he was assured by 
its proprietress, was an indoor ffarden-of-Bden for a single 
man ; and certainly, looked at by the light of such advantages 
as a rent of four-and-sixpence a week, a sofa-bedstead — (that 
deHciously innocent white lie in the way of furniture which 
never yet deceived anybody) ; a Dutch oven, an apparatus foi 
cooking anything, from a pheasant to a red herrmg; and a 
little high-art in the way of a young gentleman in red-and- 
yellow making honourable proposals to a young lady in yellow - 
^nd-red, in picture number one; and the same la^y and gen- 
tleman perpetuating themselves in picture number two, by 
means of a red baby in a yellow cradle ; — ^taking into consider- 
ation such advantages as these, the one-pair back was a para- 
dise calculated to cnarm a virtuously-minded single man. Mr. 
Peters therefore took immediate possession by planting his 
honest gingham in a comer of the room, and by placing two* 
Hud-sixpence in the hands of the proprietress by way of deposit. 



40 . The Trail of tie Serpent. 

His luggage waA more convenient than extensiye — oonsisting 
of a parcel in the crown of his hat, containing the lighter 
elegancies of his costume; a small bundle in a red cotton 
podket handkerchief, which held the heavier articles of his 
wardrobe ; and a comb, which he carried in his pocket-book. 

The proprietress of the indoor Eden was a maiden lady of 
mature age, with a sharp red nose and metallic pattens. It 
was with some difficulty that Mr. Peters made her understand, 
by the aid of pantomimic gestures and violent shakings of the 
head, that he was dumb, but not deaf; that she need be under 
no necessity of doing violence to the muscles of her throat, as 
he could hear her with perfect ease in her natural key. He 
then — still by the aid of pantomime — ^made known a desire for 
pencil and paper, and on being supplied with these articles 
wrote the one word " baby," and handed that specimen of cali- 
graphy to the proprietress. 

That sharp-nosed damsel's maidenly indignation sent new 
roses to join the permanent blossoms at the end of her olfactory 
organ* and she remarked, in a voice of vinegar, that she let her 
lodgings to single men, and that single men as were single men, 
and not impostors, had no business with babies. 

Mr. Peters again had recourse to the pencil, "Not mine- 
fondling; to be brought up by hand; would pay for food and 
nursing." 

The maiden proprietress had no objection to a fondling, if paid 
for its requirements ; hked children in their places ; would call 
Kupping ; and did call Kuppins. 

A. voice at the bottom of the stairs responded to the call of 
Kuppins ; a boy's voice most decidedljr ; a boy's step upon the 
stairs announced the approach of Kuppins ; and Kuppins entered 
the room with a boy's stride and a boy's slouch ; but for all this, 
Kuppins was a girl. 

Not very much like a girl about the head, with that shock of 
dark rough short hair ; not much Hke a girl about the feet, in 
high-lows, with hob-nailed soles ; but a girl for all that, as testi- 
fied by short petticoats and a long blue pinafore, ornamented 
profuselv with every variety of decoration m the way of three- 
oomered slits and grease-spots. 

Kuppins was informed by her mistress that the gent had 
oome to lodge ; and moreover that the gent was dunib. It is 
impossible to describe Kuppins' delight at the idea of a dumb 
lo^er. 

iKuppins had knowed a dumb boy as lived three doors from 
^gother s (Kuppins' mother understood) ; this 'ere dumb boy wai 
HHfi^us, and when he w£ki gone agin, 'owled 'orrid. 
^^^pAB told that the gent wasn't vicious and never howled« 



The Dumb Detective a FMlantunfiH, 41 

Rnd seemed, if anything, disappointed. Understood the dumb 
alphabet, and had conversed in it for hours with the aforesaid 
domb boy. The author, as omniscient, may state that Knppins 
and the vicious boy had had some love-passages in days gone by. 
Mr. Peters was delighted to find a kindred spirit capable of 
tmderstanding his dirty alphabet, and explainea his wisn that a 
baby, " a fondling " he intended to bring ap, might be taken in 
and done for as well as himself. 

Knppins doaled on babies; had nnrsed nine brothers and 
sisters, and had nnrsed outside the family circle, at the rate of 
fifteen-pence a week, for some years. Kuppins had been out in 
the world from the age of twelve, and was used up as to Slop- 
perton at sixteen. 

Mr. Peters stated by means of the dirty alphabet — (more than 
usually dirty to-day, after his journey from Gardenford, whence 
he had transplanted his household gods, namely, the gingham 
umbrella, the bundle, parcel, pocket-book, and comb) — ^that he 
would go and fetch the baby. Kuppins immediately proved 
herself an adept in the art of construing this manual language, 
and nodded tnumphantlv a great many times in token that she 
understood the detective s meaning. 

The baby was apparently not far ofi", for Mr. Peters returned 
in five minutes with a limp bundle smothered in an old pea- 
jacket, which on close inspection turned out to be the " fondling." 

Mr. Peters had lately purchased the pea-jacket second-hand, 
and believed it to be an appropriate outer garment for a baby in 
long-clothes. 

Tiie fondling soon evinced signs of a strongly-marked charac- 
ter, not to say a vindictive disposition, and fought manftdly with 
Kuppins, smiting that young lady in the face, and abstracting 
handfuls of her hair with an address beyond his years. 

" Ain't he playful ? " asked that young person, who was evi- 
dently experienced in fretful babies, and indifferent to the loss of 
a stray tress or so from her luxuriant locks. ** Ain't he playfuL 
pretty hinnercent ! Lor ! he'll make the place quite cheerfal ! '* 

In corroboration of which prediction the " fondling " set up a 
dismal wail, varied with occasional chokes and screams. 

Surely there never could have been, since the foundation-stones 
of the hospitals for abandoned children in Paris and London 
were laid, such a ** fondling " to choke as this fondling. The 
manner in which his complexion would turn — from its original 
sickly sallow to a vivid crimson, from crimson to dark blue, and 
from blue to black — ^was something miraculous ; and Kupping 
was promised much employment in the way of shakings anj 
pattings on the back, to keep the " fondling " from an early and 
unpleasant death. But Kuppins, aa'wew^QT^TCk^^^^^^^^ 



42 The Trail of the Serpent 

baby — and, indeed, would have given the preference to a eroM 
baby — a cross baii^ being, as it were, a battle to figbt, and a 
nctoiT to achieve. 

In half an honr she had conquered the fondling in a mannel 
wonderfol to behold. She laid him across her £iee while she 
lighted a fire in the smoky little grate ; for the in-door Eden 
offered a Hobson's choice to its inhabitants, of smoke or damp ; 
and Mr. Peters preferred smoke. She carried the infant on her 
left arm, while sne fetched a red herring, an ounce of tea, and 
other comestibles from the chandler's at the comer; put him 
under her arm while she cooked the herring and made the tea, 
and waited on Mr. Peters at his modest repast with the fondling 
choking on her shoulder. 

Mr. Peters, having discussed his meal, conversed with Kuppini 
KS she removed the tea-things. The alphabet by this time liad 
acquired a piscatorial flavour, from his liaving made use cf the 
five vowels to remove the bones of his herring. 

" That baby's a rare fretful one," says Mr. Peters with rapid 
fingers. 

Kuppins had nursed a many fretful babies. ** Orohants was 
generally fretful ; supposed the * fondling ' was a orphant." 

" Poor little chap ! — ^yes," said Peters. " He*s had his trials, 
though he is a young 'un. I'm afeard he'll never grow up a tee- 
totaller. He's had a little too much of the water already." 

Has had too much of the water P Kuppins would very much 
like to know the meaning of this observation. But Mr. Peters 
relapses into profound thought, and looks at the "fondling" 
(still choking) with the eye of a philanthropist and almost the 
tenderness of a father. 

He who provides for the young ravens had, perhaps, in the 
marvellous fitness of all things of His creation, given to this 
helpless Httle one a better protector in the dumb scrub of tlif 
police force than he might nave had in the father who had cast 
him off, whoever that father might be. 

Mr. Peters presently remarks to the interested Kuppins, that 
he shall " ederkate," — ^he is some time deciding on the conflicting 
merits of a c or a Zc for this word — he shall " ederkate the fond- 
ling, and brin^ him up to his own business." 

" What is ms business P " asks Kuppins naturally. 

•• Detecktive," Mr. Peters spells, embellishing the word wilh 
ftn extraneous k. 

" Oh, perlice," said Kuppins. '* Criky, how jolly ! ^ * Shouldn't 
I like to be a perliceman, and find out all about this 'ere 'orriil 
murder ! " 

Mr. Peters brightens at the word ** murder," and he regardf 
Kuppins with a friendly glance. 



Seven Leiter» tm ths Dtrty Alphabet, 43 

* So yoTi takes a hinterest in this 'ere murder, do ytrP " he 
gpells out. 

" Oh, don't IP I bought a Sunday paper. Shouldn't I like 
to see IJiat there young man as killed his uncle scragged — ^that's 
*11!- 

Mr. Peters shook his head doubtfully, with a less friendly 
glance at Kuppins. But there were secrets and mysteries oi 
his art he did not trust at all times to the dirty alphabet ; and 
perhaps his opinion on the subject of the murder of Mr. Mon- 
tague ELarding was one of them. 

Kuppins presently fetched him a pipe ; and as he sat by th(S 
smoky fixe, ne watched alternately the blue cloud that issued 
from his lips and the clumsy figure of the damsel pacing up and 
down with the " fondling" (asleep after the exhaustion attendant 
on a desperate chdke) upon her arms. 

" If," mused Mr. Peters, with his mouth veiy much to the left 
of his nose — ** if that there baby was grow'd up, he might help 
me to find out the rights and wrongs of this 'ere murder." 

Who so fit P or who so unfit ? Which shall we say P If in 
the wonderful course of events, this little child shall ever have a 
part in dragging a murderer to a murderer's doom, shall it be 
called a monstrous and a terrible outrage of nature, or a ji:»t 
uid a fitting retribution P 



CnAPTER YIIL 

SEVElf LETTEES OW THE DERTT ALPHABET. 

The 17th of February shone out bright and clear, and a frosty 
sunlight Illumined tae windows of the court where Richard 
Marwood stood to be tried for his life. 

Never, perhaps, had that court been so crowded; never, per- 
haps, had there been so much anxiety felt in Slopperton for the 
result of any trial as was felt that day for the issue of the trial 
of Richard Marwood. 

The cold bright sunlight streaming in at the windows seemed 
to fall brightest and coldest on the wan white face of the pri- 
soner at the bar. 

Three months of mental torture had done their work, and had 
written their progress in such characters upon that young and 
once radiant countenance, as Time, in his smooth and peaceful 
course, would have taken years to irace. But Richard Marwood 
was calm to-day, with the awful calmness of that despair which 
is past all hope. Suspense had exhausted him. But he had 
done with sospenseb and felt that his fate was sealed; nnleaa^ 



i 



44 The Trail of tie Serpent 

indeed, Heaven — infinite both in mercy and in power — raised ap 
as by a miracle some earthly instrument to save him. 

The court was one vast sea of eager faces ; for, to the spectv 
tors, this trial waa as a great game of chance, which the counsel 
for the prosecution, the judge, and the jury, played against the 
prisoner and his advocate, and at which the prisoner staked 
nis life. 

There was bnt one opinion in that vast assemblage; and that 
was, that the accused would lose in this dreadful game, and that 
he well deserved to lose. 

There had been betting in Slopperton an the result of this 
awful hazard. For the theorv of chances is to certain minds so 
delightful, that the range of subjects for a wager may ascend 
from a maggot-race to a trial for murder. Some adventurous 
spirits had taken desperate odds against the outsider "Ac- 
auittal;" and many enterprising gentlemen had made what 
tney considered " good books," by putting heavy sums on the 
decided favourite, " Found Guilty." As, nowever, there mi^ht 
be a commutation of the sentence of death to transportation 
for life, some speculators had bet upon the chance of the 
prisoner being found guilty, but not executed; or, as it had 
been forcibly expressed, had backed ** Penal Servitude" against 
"Gallows." 

So there were private interests, as well as a pubhc interest, 
among that swellmg ocean of men and women; and Bichard 
had but very few backers in the great and terrible game that 
was being played. 

In a comer of the gallery of the court, high up over the heads 
of the multitude, there was a little spot railed off from the 
public, and accessible only to the officials, or persons introduced 
by them. Here, among two or three policemen, stood our friend 
Mr. Joseph Peters, with his mouth very much on one side, and 
his eyes fixed intently upon the prisoner at the bar. The 
gallery in which he stood faced the dock, though at a great 
distance from it. 

If there was one man in that vast assembly who, next to the 
prisoner, was most wretched, that man was the prisoner's 
counsel. He was young, and this was only his third or fourth 
brief ; and this was, moreover, the first occasion npon which he 
had ever been intrusted with an important case. He was an 
intensely nervous and excitable man, and failure would be to 
him worse than death ; and he felt failure inevitable. He had 
not one inch of ground for the defence; and, in spite of the 
prisoner's repeated protestations of his innocence, he believed 
that prisoner to be guilty. He was an earnest man ; and this 
«62/a/ damped his earnestness. He was a conscientious Tuan; Q.nd 



Seven Zeftert on the Dirty Atpiahet. 45 

he felt that to defend Eicliard Marwood was something like a 
dishonest action. 

The prisoner pleaded "Not guilty" in a firm voice. We 
read of this whenever we read of the trial of a great criminal ; 
we read of the firm voice, the calm demeanonr, the composed 
face, and the dignified bearing ; and we wonder. Wonld it not 
be more wondemd were it otherwise P K we consider the pitch 
to which that man's feelings have been wrought ; the tension of 
every nerve ; the exertion of every force, mental and physical, 
to meet those five or six desperate hours, we wonder no longer. 
The man's life has become a terrible drama, and he is playing 
his great act. That mass of pale and watchful faces carries 
him through the long agony. Or perhaps it is less an agony 
than an excitement. It may be that his mind is mercifany 
darkened, and that he cannot see beyond the awful present into 
the more awful future. He is not busy with the vision of a 
ghastlj structure of wood and iron ; a dangling rope swin^ng 
£x>se m the chill morning air, till it is tightened and stramed 
by a quivering and palpitating figure, which so soon grows 
rigid. He does not, it is to be hoped, see this. Life for him 
to-day stands still, and there is not room in his breast — absorbed 
with the one anxious desire to preserve a proud and steady 
ontward seeming — for a thought of that dreadful future whicn 
may be so close at hand. 

So, Richard Marwood, in an unfaltering voice, pleaded " Not 
guilty." 

There was among that vast crowd but one person who be- 
lieved him. 

Ay, Richard Marwood, thou mightest reverence those dirty 
hands, for they have spelt out the only language, except that 
of thy wretohed mother, that ever spoke conviction of thy 
innocence. 

Now the prisoner, though firm and coUectod in his manner 
spoke in so low and subdued a voice as to be only clearly audible 
to those near him. It happened that the judge, one of the 
celebrities of the bench, was afflicted with a trifling infirmity, 
which he would never condescend to acknowledge. That 
infirmity was partial deafiiess. He was what is called hard of 
hearing on one side, and his — ^to use a common expression — 
gcmieeaj happened to be nearest Richard. 

" Guilty," said the judge. " So, so — Guilty. Yery good." 

•* Pardon me, my lord," said the counsel for the defence, " the 
prisoner pleaded not guilty." 

" Nonsense, sir. Do you suppose me deaf P" asked his lord- 
ship; at which there was a ahght tittor among the habitnei 
oltheconrt 



4G T!ie Trait of the Serpent. 

The barristei* gave his head a deprecatory, shake. Of conrsd, 
a gentleman in his lordship's position conld not be deaf. 

" Very well, then," said the jndge, " unless I am deaf, the 
prisoner pleaded guilty. I heard him, sir, with my own ears — 
my own ears.** 

The barrister thought his lordship should have said " my own 
ear," as the game organ ought not to count. 

"Perhaps," said the judge, "perhaps the prisoner will be 
good enough to repeat ms plea; and tnis time he will be good 
enough to speak out." 

" Not guilty," said Richard again, in a firm but not a loud 
voice — ^his long imprisonment, with days, weeks, and months of 
slow agony, had so exhausted his physical powers, that to speak 
at all, under such circumstances, was an effort. 

"Not gmltyP" said the judge. "Why, the man doesn't 
know his own mind. The man must be a bom idiot — ^he can't 
be right in his intellect." 

Scarcely had the words passed his lordship's lips, when a 
long low whistle resounded tnrough the court. 

Everybody looked up towards a comer of the gallery from 
which the sound came, and the officials cried " Order !" 

Among the rest the prisoner raised his eyes, and looking to 
the spot from which this unexampled and daring interruption 
proceeded, recognized the face of the man who had spelt out the 
words " Not guilty" in the railway carriage. Their eyes met ; 
and the man signalled to Richard to watch his hands, whilst 
with his fingers he spelt out several words slowly and de- 
liberately. 

This occurred during the pause caused by the endeavours of 
the officials to discover what contumacious person had dared to 
whistle at the close of his lordship's remark. 

The counsel for the prosecution stated the case — a very cleai 
case it seemed too — against Richard Marwood. 

"Here," said the barrister, "is the case of a young man, who, 
after squandering a fortune, and getting deeply in debt in his 
liative town, leaves that town, as it is thought by all, never to 
letum. For seven years he does not return. His widowed and 
lonely mother awaits in anffuish for any tidings of this heartless 
reprobate ; but, for seven long years, by not so much as one 
line or one word, sent through aiw channel whatever, does he 
attempt to relieve her anxiety. His townsmen believe him to 
be dead; his mother believes him to be dead; and it is to be 
presumed from his conduct that he wishes to be lost sight of 
Dy all to whom he once was dear. But at the end of this seven 
years, hi 3 uncle, his mother's only brother, a man of large 
fortune, returns from India and takes up his temporary abod« 



Seven Letters on the Dvrty Aljpliabet 4^1 

at the Black Mill. Of conrse all Slopperton knows oi the 
amyal of this gentleman, and knows also the extent of his 
wealth. We are always interested in rich people, gentlemen of 
the jniy. Now, it is not vei^ difficult to imagme, that through 
some channel or other the prisoner at the bar was made aware 
of his uncle's return, and his residence at the Black Mill. The 
fact was mentioned in every one of the five enterprising joumala 
which are the pride of Slopperton. The prisoner may have 
seen one of these journals ; he may have had some former boon 
companion resident in Slopperton, with whom he may have 
been in correspondence. Be that as it tnay, gentlemen, on the 
eighth night after Mr. Montague Harding's arrival, the prisoner 
at the bar appears, after seven years' absence, with a long face 
and a penitent story, to beg his mother's forgiveness. Gentle- 
men, we know the boundless power of maternal love ; the inex- 
haustible depth of affection m a mother's breast. His mother 
forgave him. The fatted calf was killed ; the returned wanderer 
was welcomed to the home he had rendered desolate ; the past 
was wiped out ; and seven long years of neglect and desertion 
were forgotten. The family retired to rest. That night, gentle- 
men, a murder was committed of a deeper and darker dye than 
guilt ordinarily wears : a murder which in centuries hence will 
stand amongst the blackest chapters in the gloomy annals of 
crime. Under the roof whose snelter he had sought for the 
repose of his old age, Montague Harding was cruelly and bru- 
tally murdered. 

" Now, gentlemen, who committed this outrage ? Who was 
the monster in human form that perpetrated this villanous, 
cowardly, and bloodthirsty deed? Suspicion, gentlemen of 
the jury, only points to one man ; and to that man suspicion 
points with so unerring a finger, that the criminal stands re- 
vealed in the broad glare of detected guilt. That man is the 
prisoner at the bar. On the discovery of the murder, the 
returned wanderer, the penitent and dutiful son, was of course 
sought for. But was he to be found ? No, gentlemen. The 
bird had flown. The affectionate son, who, after seven years' 
desertion, had returned to his mother's feet — as it was of course 
presumed never again to leave her — ^had departed, secretly, in 
the dead of the night ; choosing to sneak out of a window like 
a burglar, rather than to leave by the door, as the legitimate 
master of the house. Suspicion at once points to him ; he is 
sought and found — ^where, gentlemen? Forty miles from the 
scene of the murder, with the money rifled from the cabinet of 
the murdered man in his possession, and with his coat-sleeyo 
Blamed by the blood of his victim. These, gentlemen, are, in 
brief, the circumstances of this harrowing ca.w>*, ^tA \ ^JcivsSs. 
you wiD agree with me *'*^ never did dtcuTDLHVoiiAi^ «Tv^«a$» 



iA Bo TtM of the Serpent. 

hii t Iv-arly puiut out tho true criminal. I sl^all now proceed U 
i-.iill the wLiuetts^ for the orown." 

Tliuru wan » pauue and a little bustle in tbe court, the wayei 
uf thu liuiuau iea were agitated for a moment. The backers oi 
tho fuvuuritca, " Guilty " and " Grallows," felt they had made 
Mufu biiuVtt. Puriug tliis pause, a in an pushed his way through 
thu ui'iiwdi \ip to the spot where the prisoner's counsel. was 
ycuLuil, liiui put a little dirty slip of paper into his hand. There 
wu« writtpu on it only one word, a word of three letters. The 
UiiUiittul iviiU it, and tnen tore the slip of paper into the smallest 
utu(i(4 it wa« jiOHsible to reduce it to, and threw the fragments 
(ju tUp Ui'or at his feet; but a warm flush mounted to his face, 
hitliuvto H(i pale, and he prepared himself to watch the evi- 

Hliihar«l Marwood, who knew the strength of the evidence 
rt}.i;iviuHt him, and knew his powerlessness to controvert it, had 
iidt'iMMHl to its recapitulation with the preoccupied air of a man 
whuiu i'litt proceedmgs of the day in no way concerned. His 
4lmt<t'aot'(Ml manner had been noticed by the spectators, and much 
(jnmiiuuiUul upon. 

It wan Hingular, but at this most important crisis it appeared 
UN If hiH chief attention was attracted by Joseph Peters, for he 
koht hin eyes intently fixed upon the comer where that indi- 
viuual Htood. The eyes of the people, following the direction of 
]li(^hard'M eyes, saw nothing but a httle group of officials leaning 
ov«»r a comer of the gallery. 

The crowd did not see what Eichard saw, namely, the fingers 
of Mr. J*oters slowly shaping seven letters — two words — ^four 
lotto rn in the first word, and three letters in the second. 

'I'lioro lay before the prisoner a few sprigs of rue j he took 
th(Mn up one by one, and gathering them together info a little 
bouqiK^t, placed them in his button-hole — the eyes of the multi- 
tudes staring at liim all the time. 

Strange to say, this trifling action appeared to be so pleasing 
to Mr. Joseph rctors, that he danced, as involuntarily, the first 
stops of an extempore hornpipe, and being sharply called to 
order by the officials, relapsed into insignificance for the re- 
mainder of the trial 

CHAPTER IX, 

"MAD, GENTLEMEN OP THE JtHir.** 

The first witness called was Richard's mother. From one to 
another amidst the immense number of persons in that well- 
j»acked court-room there ran a murmur oi compassion for that 
topless woman with the white, anguish- worn face, and the 



**Madf Gentlemen of the Jury.** 49 

qtnvering lip which tried so vainly to bo still. All in Slopperbon 
who knew anything of Mrs. Marwood, knew her to be a proud 
woman; they knew how silently she had borne the wild con- 
dnct of her son; how deeply she had loved that <*on; and 
they conld guess now the depth of the bitterness ol her soal 
when called upon to utter words which must help to condemn 
him. 

After the witness had been duly sworn, the counsel for the 
prosecution addressed her thus : 

"We have every wish, madam, to spare your feeli'^gs ; I know 
there is not one individual present who does not sympathize 
with yom in the position in which you now stand. But the 
course of Justice is as inevitable as it is sometimes painful, 
and we must all of us yield to its stem necessities. You will be 
pleased to state how long it is since your son left his home P " 

** Seven years — seven years last August." 

" Can you also state ms reasons for leaving his home P " 

" He had embarrassments in Slopperton — debts, which I have 
since his departure liquidated." 

" Can you tell me what species of debts P " 

"They were — " she hesitated a little, "chiefly debts of 
honour." 

" Then am I to understand your son was a gambler P " 

"He was unfortunately much addicted to cards." 

"To any other description of gambling? " 

" Yes, to betting on the events of the turf." 

" He had fallen, I imagine, into bad companionship P *' 

She bowed her head, and in a faltering voice replied, " He 
had." 

"And he had acquired in Slopperton the reputation of being 
a scamp — a ne'er-do-well P " 

" I am afraid he had." 

" We will not press you further on this very painful subject ; 
we will proceed to his departure from home. Your son gave 
you no intimation of his intention of leaving Slopperton ? " 

" None whatever. The last words he said to mo were, that 
he wap sorry for the past, but that he had started on a bad 
yoad, and must go on to the end." 

In this manner the examination proceeded, the account of 
the discovery of the murder being elicited from the witness, 
whose horror at having to give the details was exceedingly 
painful to behold. 

The prisoner's counsel rose and addressed Mrs. Marwood. 

" In examining you, madam, my learned friend has not asked 
rou whether you nad looked upon your son, the prisoner at tha 
bar, as a good or a bad Fon. Will you be kind enough to statu 
your impression on this subject ? ** 



60 The Trail oj the Serpeni. 

" Apart from Hs wild condnot, he was a good boh. He wai 
kind and affectionate, and I believe it was his regret for the 
grief his dissipation had caused me that drove him away from 
nis home." 

*' He was kind and affectionate. I am to nnderstand, then, 
that his disposition was natnrallj good P " 

"Natorally he had a most excellent disposition. He was 
nniversaUy beloved as a boy; the servants were excessively 
attached to him ; he had a great love of animals — dogs followed 
him instinctively, as I believe they always do foUow people who 
like them." 

"A very interesting trait, no doubt, in the pjrisoner's dis- 
position; but if we are to have so much charmingly minnlo 
description, I*m afraid we shall never conclude this trial," said 
the opposite counsel. And a juryman, who had a ticket for a 
public dinner at four o'clock in his pocket, forgot himself so far 
that he applauded with the heels of his boots. 

The prisoner's counsel, regardless of the observation of his 
•* learned friend," proceeded. 

** Madam," he said, " had your son, before his departure from 
home, any serious illness P " 

" The question is irrelevant," said the judge. 

" Pardon me, my lord. I shall not detam yon long. I be- 
Eeve the question to be of importance. Permit me to proceed." 

Mrs. Marwood looked surprised by the question, but it came 
from her son's advocate, and she did her best to answer it. 

"My son had, shortly before his leaving home, a violent 
attack of brain-fever." . 

During which he was delirious ? " 

Everybody is delirious in brain-fever," said the judge. 
This is trifling with the court, sir." 

The judge was rather inclined to snub the prisoner's counsel ; 
first, because he was a young and struggling man, and there- 
fore ought to be snubbed ; and secondly, because he had in a 
manner inferred that his lordship was deaf. 

" Pardon me, my lord ; you will see the drift of my question 
by-and-by." 

" I hope so, sir," said his lordship, very testily. 

** "Was your son, madam, delirious dunng this fever P ** 

** Throughout it, sir." 

•* And you attributed the fever *' 

** To his bad conduct having preyed upon his mind.** 

** Were yon alarmed for his me during his illness P " 

•* Much alarmed. But our greatest fear was for his reason.** 

** Did the faculty apprehend the loss of his reason P " 

"They did." 

" The doctors who attended him were resident in Slopi)erton f ** 



u 
u 



^Mad, Gentlemen of tlie Jury.** 51 

^They were, and are so stOL He was attended by Dr. 
Morton and Mr. Lamb." 

The prisoner's ooonsel here beckoned to some officials near 
bim — ^whispered some directions to them, and they immediately 
left the court. 

Besuming the examination of this witness, the counsel 
■aid: 

*' Yon repeated jnst now the words your son made nse of on 
the night of his aepartore from home. They were rather sin- 
gular words — ' he had started on a dark road« and he must go 
on to the end of it.' " 

" Those were his exact words, sir." 

''Was there any wildness in his manner in saying these 
words? " he asked. 

** His manner was always wild at this time — ^perhaps wilder 
that night than usuaL" 

** His manner, you say, was always wild. He had acquired 
a reputation for a wild recklessness of disposition from an early 
age, had he not P " 

''He had, unfortunately — irom the time of his going to 
school." 

" And his companions, I belieye, had given him some namo 
expressive of this r " 

"Thevhad." 

"And that name was ** 

"Daredevil Dick." 

Martha, the old servant, was next sworn. She described the 
inding of the body of Mr. Harding. 

The examination by the prisoner's counsel of this witness 
3licited nothing but that — 

Master Dick had always been a wild boy, but a good boy 
xt heart; that he had been never known to nurt so much as & 
worm; and that she, Martha, was sure he'd never done the 
murder. When asked if she had any suspicion as to who had 
donei the deed, she became nebulous in her manner, and made 
some allusions to " the French " — ^having lived in the days of 
Waterloo, and being inclined to ascribe any deed of darkness, 
from the stealing of a leg of mutton to the exploding of an 
infernal machine, to the emissaries of Napoleon. 

Mr. Jinks, who was then examined, ga^e a minute aii^l 
rather discursive account of the arrest of Richard, pay in ^» 
several artful compliments to his own dexterity as a detective 
officer. 

The man who met Richard on the platform at the railway 
station deposed to the prisoner's evident wish to avoid a 
•eco^tion ; to his even crossing the line for that purpose. 

"There is one witness," said the ooimsd iot ^5cl^ cx«i^irDL%**\ 



52 l^io Trail of tlie Serpent, 

am sorry t<5 say I shall be unable to produce. Thut witness ii 
the half-caste servant of the murdered gentleman, who etiP 
lies in a precarious state at the county nospital, and whose 
recovery from the injuries inflicted on lum by the murderer of 
his master is pronounced next to an impossibility." 

The case for the prosecution closed; still a very clear case 
against Richard Marwood, and still the backers of the " Grallows" 
thought they had made a very good book. 

The deposition of the Lascar, the servant of the murdered 
man, had been taken through an interpreter, at the hospital. It 
threw little light on the case. The man said, that on tne night 
of the murder he had been awoke by a sound in Mr. Harding's 
room, and had spoken in Hindostanee, asking if his master 
required his assistance, when he received in the darkness a blow 
on the head, which immediately deprived him of his senses. 
He coxdd tell nothing of the jjerson who struck the blow, 
except that at the moment of striking it a hand passed across 
his face — a hand which was peculiarly soft and delicate, and 
the fingers of which were long and slender. 

As this passage in the deposition was read, every eye in 
court was turned to the prisoner, who at that moment hap- 
pened to be leaning forward with his elbow on the ledge of the 
dock before him, and his hand shading his forehead — a very 
white hand, with long slender fingers. Poor Richard ! In the 
good days gone by he had been rather proud of his delicate and 
somewhat feminine hand. 

The prisoner's counsel rose and delivered his speech for the 
defence. A very elaborate defence. A defence which went to 
prove that the prisoner at the bar, though positively guilty, 
was not morally guilty, or legally guilty — " because, .gentlemen 
of the jury, he is, and for some time has been, msane. Yes, 
madj gentlemen of the jiiry. What has been every action of 
his Hfe but the a<i^ion of a madman P His wild boyhood ; his 
reckless extravagant youth; his dissipated and wasted man- 
hood, spent among drunken and dangerous companions. What 
was his return? Premeditated durmg the suffering of deli- 
rium tremens, and premeditated long before the arrival of his 
rich uncle at Slopperton, as I shau presently prove to you. 
What was this, but the sudden repentance of a madman? 
Scarcely recovered from this frightful disease — a disease during 
which men have been known frequently to injure themselves, 
and those very dear to them, in the most terrible manner- - 
Bcarcelj recovered from this disease, he starts on foot^ennilesf\ 
for a journey of upwards of two hundred miles. He accom- 
plishes that journey — ^how, gentlemen, in that dreary November 
weather, I tremble even to think — ^he accomplishes that long 
And painful journey; and on the evening of tiie ei^th day 



•* Mad, Oentlemen of the Jury,** 68 

£rom that on whicli lie left Loudon be falls fainting at hia 
mother's feet. I shall prove to yon, gentlemen, that the ]jrisonei 
left London on the very daj on which his nncle amved in 
Slopperton; it is therefore impossible he conld have had any 
knowledge of that arrival when he started. Well, gentlemen, 
the prisoner, after the fatigue, the extreme privation, he has 
snlTered, has yet another trial to undergo — tne terrible agita- 
tion caused by a reconciliation with his beloved mother. He 
has eaten scarcely anything for two days, and is im'udiciously 
allowed to drink nearly a bottle of old madeira. That night, 
gentlemen of the jury, a cruel murder is perpetrated ; a murder 
as certain of immediate discovery, as clumsy in execution, as 
it is frightful in detail. Can there be any doubt that if it was 
oommitted by my unhappy client, the prisoner at the bar, it 
was perpetrated by him while labouring under an access of 
deliritun, or msamty-temporary. if you will, but unmitigated 
insamty — aggravated by excessive fatigue, unprecedented men- 
tal excitement, and the bad effects of the wme he had been 
drinking P It has been proved that the cabinet was rifled, and 
that the pocket-book stolen therefrom was found in the prison- 
er's possession. This may have been one of those strange 
hashes of method which are the distinguishing features of 
madness. In his horror at the crime he had in his delirium 
committed, the prisoner's endeavour was to escape. For this 
escape he required money — ^hence the plunder oi the cabinet. 
The manner of his attempting to escape again proclaims the 
madman. Instead of flying to Liverpool, which is only thirty 
miles from this town — ^whence he could have sailed for any 
part of the globe, and thus defied pursuit — ^he starts without 
any attempt at disguise for a small inland town, whence escape 
is next to an impossibility, and is captured a few hours afbel 
the crime has been committed, with the blood of his unhappy 
victim upon the sleeve of his coat. Would a man in his 
senses, gentlemen, not have removed, at any rate, this fatal 
evidence of his guilt P Woxdd a man in his senses not have 
endeavoured to disguise himself, and to conceal the money he 
had stolen P Gentlemen of the jury, I have perfect confidence 
in your coming^ to a just decision respecting this most unhappy 
affair. Weighing well the antecedents of the prisoner, and the 
circumstances oi the crime, I can have not one shadow of a 
doubt that your verdict will be to the effect that the wretched 
man before you is, alas! too certainly his uncle's murderer, 
but^ that he is as certainly irresponsible for a deed committed 
during an aberration of intellect. 

Strange to say, the counsel did not once draw attention to 
the singular conduct of the prisoner -^^iSia ycl <5«v3A\\i^*^iK!«i 



64 The Trail of the Serpent, 

conduct liad not been tlie less remarked by the jury, and dl<] 
not the less weigh with. them. 

The witnesses for the defence were few in number. The first 
who mounted the witness-box was rather peculiar in his aimear- 
ance. If yon include amongst his personal attractions a red 
nose (wHcn shone like the danger-signal on a railway through 
the dusky air of the court) ; a black eye — ^not that admired 
iarkness of the organ itself which is the handiwork of libera] 
mature, but that peculiarly mottled purple-and-green appear- 
ance about the region which bears witness to the fist of an 
acquaintance; a bushy moustache of a fine blue-black dye; 
a head of tliick black hair, not too intimately acquainted 
with that modem innoyation on manly habits, the comb-- 
you may perhaps haye some notion oi his physical qualifi- 
cations. But nothing could eyer give a fall or just idea of the 
recklessness, the efirontery of his manner, the twinkle in his eye, 
the expression in every pimple of that radiant nose, or the depth 
of meaning he could convey by one twitch of his moustache, or 
one shake of his forest of black ringlets. 

His costume inclined towards the fast and furious, consisting 
of a pair of loose Scotch plaid unmentionables, a bright blue 
greatcoat, no under-coat or waistcoat, a great deal of shirt 
ornamented with death's-heads and pink ballet-dancers — ^to say 
nothing of cofiee and tobacco stains, and enough sham gold 
chain meandering over his burly breast to make up for every 
deficiency. While he was being duly sworn, the eyes of the 
witness wandered with a frien<Uy and pitying glance towards 
the wretched prisonev at the bar. 

" You are a member of the medical profession P" 

"lam." 

^ ** You were, I believe, in the company of the prisoner the 
night of his departure from London for this town P" 

"I was." 

" What was the conduct of the prisoner on that night P" 

" Bum." 

On being farther interrogated, the witness stated that he haa 
known Mr. Eichard Marwood for many years, being himself 
originally a Slopperton man. 

" Can you tell what led the prisoner to determine on return- 
ing to his mother's house in the month of November last P" 

"Blue devils," replied the witness, with determined con- 
ciseness. 

"Blue devils P" 

" Yes, he'd been in a low way for three months, or more ; 
he'd had a sharp attack of dehrium tremens, and a touch of 

his old complaint ** 

''HiB old complaiaif" 



** Mady Oentlemen of the Jury.^ 55 

** Yw, brain-fever. During tlie fever he talked a great deal 
of Us mother; said he had killed her by his bad conduct, but 
that he'd beg her forgiveness if he walked to Slopperton on hia 
bare feet." 

** Can jon tell me at what date he first expressed this desire 
to <5ome to Slopperton P" 
** Some time dnrinff the month of September." 
** Did you during tiois period consider him to 1)8 in a sound 
mindP" 

" Well, several of my friends at Guy's used to think rather 
the reverse. It was customary amongst us to say he had a 
loo&e slate somewhere." 

The counsel for the prosecution taking exception to tins 
phrase "loose slate," the witness went on to state that he 
thought the prisoner very often off his nut ; had hidden his 
Irazors during his illness, and piled up a barricade of furni- 
ture before the window. The prisoner was remarkable for 
reckless generosity, good temper, a truthful disposition, and a 
talent for doing everything, and always doing it better than 
anybody else. This, and a great deal more, was elicited from 
him by the advocate for the defence. 
He was cross-examined by the counsel for the prosecution. 
** I think you told my learned friend that you were a member 
of the medical profession P" 
**Idid." 

Was first apprenticed to a chemist and druggist at Slopper- 
ton, and was now walking one of the hospitals in London with 
a view to attaining a position in the profession ; had not yet 
attained eminence, out hoped to do so ; had operated with some 
success in a desperate case of whitlow on the finger of a servant- 
girl, and should have effected a surprising cure, if the girl had 
not grown impatient and allowed her finger to be amputated by 
a rival practitioner befo.re the curative jjrocess had time to 
develop itself; had always entertained a sincere regard for the 
prisoner ; had at divers tunes borrowed money of him ; couldn't 
say he remembered ever returning any ; perhaps he never had 
returned any, and that might account for his not remembering 
the circumstance; had been present at the election of, and 
instrumental in electing the prisoner a member of a convivial 
club called the " Cheerful Oherokees." No " Cheerful Cherokee" 
had ever been known to commit a murder, and the dub was 
convinced of the prisoner's innocence. 

•*You told the court and jury a short time ago, that the 
prisoner's state on the last night you saw him in London was 
* rum,' " said the learned gentleman conducting the prosecution; 
•* will you be good enou^ to favour na -with, tlaa xcia»xisji% ^ 
fhat aajecidve—you intend it for an a^ecl\^e,\ v^"^"'^^^^^^^^* 



:>;; 



Tfail of the Serpent* 



•• Certainly/' replied the witness. " Enin, an adjective when 
a] 'lulled to a gentleman's conduct; a substaiitive when used to 
denominate his tipple" 

The counsel for the prosecution doesn't clearly understand 
the meaning of the word " tipple." 

The witness thinks the learned gentleman had better buy a 
dictionary before he again assists in a criminal prosecution. 

" Come, come, sir, said the judge; "you are extremely im- 
mrtinent. We don't want to be kept here all night. Let uf 
nave your evidence in a straightforward manner." 

The witness squared his elbows, and turned that luminary, hia 
nose, full on his lordship, as if it had been a bull's-eye lantern. 

'* You used another strange expression," said the counsel, "in 
duswer to my friend. Will you have the kindness to explain 
what you mean by the prisoner having * a loose slate ' ? " 

** A tile off. Something wrong about the roof — the garret — 
the upper story — ^the nut." 

The counsel for the prosecution confessed himself to be still 
In the dark. 

The witness declared himself sorry to hear it — ^he could under- 
take to give his evidence ; but he could not undertake to pro- 
vide the gentleman with understanding. 

** I will trouble you to be respectful in your replies to the 
counsel for the crown," said the judge. 

The medical student's variegated eye looked defiantly at his 
lordship ; the counsel for the crown had done with him, and 
he retired from the witness-box, after bowing to the judge and 
jury with studious poHteness. 

The next witnesses were two medical gentlemen of a different 
etamp to the "Cheerful Cherokee," who had now taken his 
place amongst the spectators. 

These gentlemen gave evidence of having attended the pri- 
■oner some years before, during brain-fever, and having very 
much feared' the fever would have resulted in the loss of the 
patient's reason. 

The trial had by this time lasted so long, that the juryman 
who had a ticket for the public dinner began to feel that his 
card of admission to the festive board was so much waste paste- 
board, and that the green fat of the turtle and the prime cut 
from the haunch of venison were not for him. 

The counsel for the prosecution delivered himself of hia 
■econd address to the jury, in which he endeavoured to demolish 
the superstructure which bis ** learned friend " had so ingeni- 
ously raised for the defence. Whv should the legal defender of 
a man whose life is in the hands of the jury not be privileged to 
address that jury in favour of his client as often, at least, as the 
le^aJ repreaent&uve cf the prosecutor P 



• Mad^ Gentlemen of the JurtfJ^ 67 

Die judge delivered his charge to the jury. 

The jnzy retired, and in an hour and fitlecn minutes returned. 

Ther found that the prisoner, Eichard iMarwood, had mur- 
jlered his unde, Montague Harding, and had further beaten and 
injured a half-caste servant in tne employ of his uiiclis 'while 
gimeiing from aberration of intellect — or, in simple phraseology, 
they found the prisoner "Not Guilty, on the ground of iii- 
■anity.** ^ 

The prisoner seemed little affected by the verdict. He looked 
with a vacant stare round the court, removed the bouqiut of 
me from his button-hole and placed it in his bosom ; and then 
said, with a clear distinct enunciation — 

** Gentlemen of the jury, I am extremely oblijjfed to you fur 
the politeness with which you have treated me. Tliauks to your 

f^werful sense of justice, I have won the battle of Areola, and 
think I have secured the key of Italy." 
It is common for lunatics to fancy themselves some great 
and distinguished person. This unhappy yonnsr ir^an Wlioved 
himself to be Na|K>ieon the First. 



k CLEAEANCE OF ALL SCOEESL 



CHAPTER L 

BLIND PETEli. 

This favourite, •* Gallows," having lost in the race with Bichard 
Marwood, there was very little more interest felt in Slopperton 
about poor baredevil Dick's fate. It was known that he was 
in the county lunatic asylum, a prisoner for life, or, as it is ex- 
pressed by persons learned in legal matters, during the pleasure 
of the sovereign. It was known that his poor mother had 
taken up her abode near the asylum, and that at intervals she 
was allowed the melancholy pleasure of seeing the wreck of her 
once light-hearted boy. Mrs. Marwood was now a very rich 
woman, inheritress of the whole of her poor murdered brother's 
wealth — ^for Mr. Montage Harding's will had been found to 
bequeath the whole of ms immense fortune to his only sister. 
She spent little, however, and what she did expend was chiejfly 
devoted to works of charity; but even her benevolence was 
limited, and she did little more for the poor than she had done 
before from her own small income. The wealth of the East 
Indian remained accumulating in the hands of her bankers. 
Mrs. Marwood was, therefore, very rich, and Slopperton accord- 
ingly set her down as a miser. 

So the nine-days' wonder died out, and the murder of Mr. 
Harding was forgotten. The sunshine on the factory chimneys 
of Slopperton grew warmer every day. Every day the "hands" 
appertaining to the factories felt more and more the necessity 
of frequent appHcationto the pubHc-house, as the weather grew 
brighter and brighter — ^till the hot June sun blazed down upon 
the pavement of everjr street in Slopperton, baking and grilhn^ 
the stones; till the sight of a puddle or an overflowing gutter 
would have been welcome as pools of water in the great desert 
of Sahara; till the people who lived on the sunny side of the 
way felt spitefally disposed towards the inhabitants of the shady 
jgide; till the chandler at the comer, who came out with a 
watering-pot and /sprinkled the pavement before his door every 



Blind FeUr. 59 

< 

eveinna, was thonglit a public benefactor; till the baiker, who 
added las pfrivate ^ock ol caloric to the great firm of Sunshine 
and C0.9 and baked the pavement above his oven on his own 
account, was thought a public nuisance, and hot bread an 
abomination; till zne butter Slopperton had for tea was no 
longer butter, bat oil, and eluded the pursuit of i^e knife, or 
hid itself in a cowardlj manner in the holes of the quartern 
foaf when the housewife attempted to spread it thereon; till 
cattle standing in pools of water were looked upon with ei^vy 
ttjid hatred; and tilt— wonder of wonders ! — Slopperton paid up 
the water-rate sharp, in fear and anguish at the tiiought of the 
possible cutting-off of that re&eshing fluid. 

The 17th of June ushered in the midsummer holidays at Dr. 
Tappenden's establishment, and on the evening of that day Dr. 
Tappenden broke up. Of course, this phrase, breaking up, is 
only a schoolboy's slang. I do not mean that the worthy 
Doctor (how did he ever come to be a doctor, I wonder ? or 
where did he get hia degree P) experienced any physical change 
when he broke up ; or that he underwent the moral change of 
going into the Gazette and coming out thereof better off than 
when he went in — which is, I believe, the custom in most cases 
of bankruptcy; I merely mean to say, that on the evening of 
the 17th of June Dr. Tappenden gave a species of baU, at which 
Mr. Pranskey, the dancing-master, assisted with his pumps and 
his violin ; and at which the young gentlemen appeared also in 
pumps, a great deal of wrist-band and shirt-collar, and shining 
races — ^in a state of painfully high polish, from the effect of the 
yellow soap that had been lavished upon them by the respectable 
young person who looked to the wardrobe department, and 
mended the linen of the young gentlemen. 

By the evening of the 18th, Dr. Tappenden's young gentle- 
men, with the exception of two little fellows with dark com- 
plexions and frizzy hair, whose nearest connections were at 
Trinidad, aU departed to their respective family circles ; and Mr, 
Jabez North had the schoolroom to himself for the whole of the 
holidays — ^for, of course, the little West Indians, pla3dng at a 
sea- voyage on one of the forms, with a cricket-bat for a mast, c: 
reading Sinbad the Sailor in a comer, were no hindrance to tii Lt 
gentleman's proceedings. 

Our friend Jabez is as calm-looking as ever. The fair pale 
complexion may be, perhaps, a shade paler, and the arched 
mouth a trifle more compressed — (that absurd professor of 
phrenology had declared that both the head and face of Jabez 
bespoke a marvellous power of secretiveness)— but our friend is 
as placid as ever. The pale face, delicate aquiline nose, the fair 
hair and rather slender figure, give a tone oi «f\a\A5^'t^'!s^ \»\!ca 
Appearance wbiob even his shabby loVack. B^m^i ^»3iXi<v:k\> <^\>L<;:fo^ 



60 The Trail of tie Serpent 

But Jabez is not too well pleased witli lis lot. He paces up 
and down the schoolroom in the twilight of the June evenings 
quite alone, for the little "West Indians have retired to the long 
dormitory which they now inhabit in solitary grandeur. Dr. 
Tappenden has gone to the sea-side with his shm only daughter, 
familiarly known amongst the scholars, who have no eyes for 
ethereal beauty, as " Skinny Jane." Dr. Tappenden has gone 
to enjoy himself; for Dr. Tappenden is a rich man. He is said 
to have some twenty thousand pounds in a London bank. He 
doesn't bank his money in Slopperton. And of " Skinny Jane," 
it may be observed, that there are young men in the town wha 
would give something for a glance from her insipid grey eyes, 
and who think her ethereal figure the very incarnation of the 
poet's ideal, when they add to that slender form the bulky 
figures that form the sum-total of her father's banking account. 

Jabez paces up and down the long schoolroom with a step so 
light that it scarcely wakes an echo (those crotchety f)hysiologists 
call this light step another indication of a secretive disposition) 
— ^up and down, in the darkening summer evening. 

** Another six months* Latin grammar," he mutters, " another 
half-year's rudiments of Greek, and all the tiresome old fables of 
Paris and Helen, and Hector and Achilles, for entertainment ! 
A nice life for a man with my head — ^for those fools who preached 
about my deficient moral region were right perhaps when they 
told me my intellect might carry me anywhere. What has it 
done for me yet ? WeU, at the worst, it has taken me out of 
loathsome parish rags ; it has given me independence. And it 
shall give me fortune. But howP What is to be the next 
trial P This time it must be no failure. This time my premises 
must be sure. If I could only hit upon some scheme t There 
is a way by which I could obtain a large sum of money ; but 
then, the fear of detection 1 Detection, which if eluded to-day 
might come to-morrow ! And it is not a year or two's riot and 
dissipation that I want to purchase ; but a long Hfe of wealth 
and luxury, with proud men's necks to trample on, and my old 
patrons to lick the dust off my shoes. This is what I must 
fight for, and this is what I must attain — ^but how P How P" 

He takes his hat up, and goes out of the house. He is quite 
his own master during these holidays. He comes in and goes 
out as he likes, provided he is always at home by ten o'clock, 
when the house is shut up for the night. 

He strolls with a purposeless step through the streets ol 
Slopperton. It is half-past eight o'clock, and the factory hands 
fill tne streets, enjoying the coolness of the evening, but quiet 
and subdued in tneir maimer, being exhausted by the heat of 
the long June day. Jabez does not much affect these crowded 
ttreets, and tnma out of one of the most busy quarters of the 



Blind Peter. 61 

town into a little lane of old honses, wHoli leads to a great old- 
jfiEuliioned square, in whicli stand two ancient chnrches with 
yrerj high steeples, an antiqne-looldng town-Iiall (once a prison), 
a ^w qnaint nonses with peaked roofs and projecting npper 
gtories, and a gannt gump. J abez soon leaves this sqnare benind 
him, and strolb throngh two or three dingy, narrow, old-fashioned 
streets, till he conies to a labyrinth of tumble-down houses, pig- 
sties, and dog-keimels, known as Blind Peter's Alley. Who 
Blind Peter was, or how he ever came to have this alley — or 
whether, as a place possessing no thoroughfare and admitting 
▼ery litiJe light, it had not originally been called Peter's Blind 
Alley — ^nobcSy living knew. But if Blind Peter was a myth, the 
aJley was a reality, and a dirty loathsome fetid realify, with 
regard to which the Board of Health seemed as if smitten with 
the aforesaid Peter's own infirmity, ignoring the horror of the 
place with fatal blindness. So BHnd Peter was the Alsatia of 
Blopperton, a refage for crime and destitution — since destitution 
cannot pick its company, but must be content often, for the sake 
of shelter, to jog cheek by jowl with crime. And thus no doubt 
it is on the strength of that golden adage about birds of a 
feather that destitution and crime are thought by numerous 
wise and benevolent persons to mean one and the same thing. 
Blind Peter had risen to popularity once or twice — on the 
occasion of a girl poisoning ner father in the crust of a beef- 
steak pudding, and a boy of fourteen committing suicide by 
hanging himself behind a door. Blind Peter, on the first of 
these occasions, had even had his portrait taken for a Sunday 
paper; and very nice indeed he had looked in a woodcut — so 
nice, that he haid found some didOSculty in recognizing himself; 
which perhaps was scarcely wonderful, when it is taken into 
consideration that the artist, who Hved in the neighbourhood of 
Holbom, had sketched Blind Peter from a mountain gorge in the 
TVrol, broken up with three or four houses out of Chancery Lane. 

Certainly Blind Peter had a pecuHar wildness in his aspect, 
being built on the side of a steep hill, and looked very much 
like a London alley which had been removed from its site 
and pitched haphazard on to a Slopperton mountain. 

It is not to be supposed for a moment that so highly 
respectable an individual as Mr. Jabez North had any intention 
of plunging into the dirty obscurity of Blind Peter. He had 
come thus far only on ms way to the outskirts of the town, 
where there was a little brick-bestrewn, pseudo country, very 
much more Hberally ornamented by oyster-shells, broken 
crockery, and scafibldmg, than by trees or wild flowers — which 
natural objects were wondrous rarities in this part of the 
Sloppertonian outskirts. 

60 Jabez pursued his way past the moTxtli oi B\vc\i\ V^^Kt— » 



62 The Trail of the Serpent. 

which was adorned by two or three broken«dowii and msty 
iron railings that looked like jagged teeth — when he was 
suddenly arrested by a hideons-looking woman, who threw her 
arms abont him, and addressed him in a shrill voice thns — 

"What, he's come back to his best friends, has heP He's 
come back to his old granny, after frightening her out of her 
poor old wits by staying away fonr days and four nights. 
Where have you been, J im, my aearj P Aid where did you get 
your fine toggery P" 

" Where Sid I get my fine toggery P What do you mean, you 
old hag ? I don't know you, ana you don't know me. Let me 
pass, will you P or I'll knock you down !" 

" No, no," she screamed ; " he wouldn't knock down his old 
granny; he wouldn't knock down his precious granny that 
nursed him, and brought him up like a gentleman, and will tell 
him a secret one of tiiese days worth a mint of money, if he 
treats her well." 

Jabez pricked up his ears at the words ''mint of money/' 
and said m rather a milder tone — 

" I tell you, my good woman, you mistake me for somebody 
else. I never saw you before." 

" What 1 you're not my Jim P " 

"No. Mj name is Jabez North. If you're not satisfied^ 
here's my card," and he took out his card-case. 

The old woman stuck her arms a kimbo, and stared at him 
with a gaze of admiration. 

** Lor ," she cried, ** don't he do it nat'ral P Ain't he a bom 
genius P He's been a-doing the respectable reduced tradesman, 
or the young man brought up to the church, what waits upon 
the gentry with a long letter, and has a wife and two innocent 
children staying in another town, and only wants the railway 
hxe to go to 'em. Eh, Jim, that's what you've been a-doing, 
ain't it now P And you've brought home the swa^ like a ^ood 
lad to your grandmother, haven't you nowP" she said m a 
wheedling tone. 

" I tell you, you confounded old fool, I'm not the man you 
take me for." 

" What, not my Jim ! And you can look at me with his eyeC 
and tell me so with his voice. Then, if you're not him, ne'a 
dead, and you're his ghost." 

Jabez thought the old woman was mad; but he was no 
coward, and the adventure began to interest him. Who Maa 
this man who was so like him, and who was to learn a secret 
Gome day worth a mint of money P 

** Will you come with me, then," said the old woman, " and 
tot me get a light, and see whether you are my Jim or not P " 

" Where's the house P " asked Jabez. 



Like and Unlike. 03 

^ Whj, in Blind Peter, to be sure. Where shonld it be f** 

"How shonld I know?** said Jabez, following her. He 
thought himself safe even in Blind Peter, having nothing of 
▼alne abont him, and having considerable faith in the protectincr 
power of his strong right arm. 

The old woman lea the way into the little mountain gorge, 
choked up with rickety hovels lately erected, or crazy old houses 
which had once been goodly residences, in the days when the 
site of Blind Peter had oeen a pleasant country lane. The house 
she entered was of this latter class ; and she led the way into a 
stone-paved room, which had once been a tolerably spacious 
entrance-hall. 

It was lighted by one feeble little candle with a long drooping 
wick, stuck in an old ginger-beer bottle ; and by this dim fight 
Jabez saw, seated on heap of rubbish by the desolate hearth, liia 
own reflection — a man dressed, unlike him, in the rough gar- 
ments of a labourer, but whose face gave back as faithfully as 
ever glass had done the shadow of his own. 



CHAPTER n. 

LIKE AND UKLIKE. 

The old woman stared aghast, first at one of the young men, 
then at the other. 

" Why, then, he isn't Jim I " she exclaimed. 

"Who isn't Jim, grandmother? What do you mean? 
Here I am, back again ; a bundle of aching bones, old rags, and 
empty pockets. I've done no good where I've been; so you 
needn't ask me for any money, for I haven't earned a farthing 
either by fair means or foul." 

" But the other," she said, — ** this young pjentleman. Look 
at him, Jim." 

The man took up the candle, snuffed it with his fingers, and 
walked straight to Jabez. He held the light before the face of 
the usher, and surveyed him with a leisurely stare. That 
individual's blae ejea winked and blinked at the fiame like an 
owl's in the sunshme, and looked every way except straight into 
the eyes looking into his. 

"Why, curse his impudence!" said the man, with a faint 
sickly laueh; **I*m blest if he hasn't been and boned my mug. 
I hope it'll do him more good than it's done me," he added, 
bitterly. 

" I can't make out the meaning of this," mumbled the old 
woman. " It's all dark to me. I saw where the other one was 
put myseil£ I saw it done, and sa£ely done too. Oh. yes, oi 
€ours< 



M The I'.'ail of the Serpent. 

•• What do yoa mean by * tlie other one 'P" asked the maiit 
while Jabez listened intently for the answer. 

" Why, my deary, that's a part of the secret yon're to know 
some of these days. Such a secret. Gold, gold, gold, as long 
as it's kept ; and gold when it's told, if it's told at ^e right 
time, deary," 

" If it's to be told at the right time to do me any good, it 
had better be told soon, then," said Jim, with a dreary shiyer. 
** My bones ache, and my head's on fire, and my feet are like 
lumps of ice. I'ye walked twenty miles to-day, and I hayen't 
had oite nor sup since last night. Where's SillikensP" 

" At the factory, Jim deary. Somebody's giyen her a piece 
of work — one of the regular hands; and she's to bring home 
some money to-night. Poor girl, she's been a fretting and 
a crying her eyes out since you'ye been gone, Jim." 

" JPoor lass. I thought I miffht do some good for her and m« 
both by going away where I did ; but I haven't ; and so I've 
come back to eat her starvation wages, poor lass. It's a 
cowardly thing to do, and if I'd had strength 1 should have gone 
on fartner, but I couldn't." 

As he was saying these words a girl came in at the half-open 
door, and running up to him, threw her arms round his neck. 

" Jim, you'ye come back ! I said you would ; I knew you'd 
never stop away ; I knew you couldn't be so cruel." 

" It's crueller to come back, lass," he said ; " it's bad to be a 
burden on a girl like you." 

** A burden, Jim! she said, in a low reproachful voice, and 
then dropped quietly down amongst the dust and rubbish at 
his feet, and laid her head caressingly against his knee. 

She was not what is generally called a pretty girl. Hers 
had not been the delicate nurture which nourishes so frail an 
exotic as beauty. She had a pale sickly face ; but it was lighted 
up by large dark eyes, and framed by a heavy mass of dark 
hair. 

She took the man's rough hand in hers, and kissed it ten- 
derly. It is not likely that a duchess would have done such a 
thing; but if she had, she could scarcely have done it with 
better grace. 

" A burden, Jim !" she said, — " a burden ! Do you think if I 
worked for you day and night, and never rested, that I should 
be weary P Do you think, if I worked my fingers to the bone 
for you, that I should ever feel the pain ? Do you think, if my 
death could make you a happy mop, I should not be glad to 
die ? Oh, you don't know, you don't inow !" 

She said this half-despairingly, as if she knew there was no 
power in his soul to fathom the depth of love in hers. 

" Poor lass, poor lass," he said, as he laid the other rouj^h 



Und eentlj v«i her Uad: bair. "If it*i m lad m tin. Fm 

■orryfor it — ^more tlian ever mxrrj Xo-mgtiV 

** Why, Jim ?" She looked up at him with a sadden glance 
of alarm. " Why, Jim ? Is anything the matter?'* 

''Not mnch, lass; bat I dcm*t think Fm quite the thing 
to-night.** His head drooped as he SDoke. The giri pat it <m 
her ^oolder, and it laj thoe as if he had scarcelj power to lift 
it np again. 

** Grandmother, he's ill — ^he's ill ! why didn't joa tell me this 
before? Is that gentleman the doctor."" she asked« looking at 
Jabez, who still stood in the shadow oi the doorwaj, watchmg 
the scene within. 

" No ; bnt I'll fetch the doctor, if yon like," said that benevo- 
lent personage, who appeared to take a wonderful interest in 
this mmily gjonp. 

" Do, sir, if yon will be so good," said the girl imploringly ; 
** he's yery ill, I'm snre. Jim, look np, and teU ns what's the 
matter?" 

The man lifted his heavy eyelids with an effort, and looked 
np with bloodshot eyes into her face. No, no ! Never could he 
fathom the depth of this love whi^]l looks down at him now 
with more than a mother's tenderness, with more than a sister^s 
devotion, with more tixan a wife's self-abnegation. This love, 
which Iniows no change, which would shelter him in those 
entwining arms a thiet or a murderer, and which conld hold 
him no dearer were he a king upon a throne. 

Jabez North goes for a doctor, and returns presently with a 
gentleman, who, on seeing Jim the labourer, pronounces that 
he had better go to bed at once ; " for," as he whispers to the 
old woman, " he's got rheumatic fever, and got it pretty sharp, 
too." 

The girl they call Sillikens bursts out crying on hearing this 
announcement, but soon chokes down her tears — (as tears are 
wont to be choked down in Blind Peter, whose inhabitants have 
little time for weeping) — and sets to work to get ready a poor 
apology for a bed — a worn-out mattress and a thin patch- work 
counterpane ; and on this they lay the bundle of acning bones 
known to Blind Peter as Jim Lomax. 

The girl receiver the doctor's directions, promises to letCfi 
some medicine from his surgery in a few minutes, and then 
kneels down by the nek man. 

" O Jim, dear Jim*" she says, " keep a good heart, for the 
sake of those who love vou." 

She might have said" for the sake of her who loves you, for it 
never surely was the toi- of any man, from my lord the marqnia 
to Jim the labourer, to Lr twice in his life loved as this man wai 
laved by her. 



C3 The Trail of {he SerpenU 

Jabez North on his way home must go the same way as the 
doctor; so thej walk side by side. 
' " Do yon think he will recover P" asks Jabez. 

" I donbt it. He has evidently been exposed to great hard- 
Phip, wet, and fatigne. The fever is vey strong npon him ; and 
I'm afraid there's notmnch chance of his getting over it. I 
should think something might be done for him, to make him a 
httle more comfortable. You are his brother, I presume, in 
spite of the apparent difference between you in station P" 

Jabez laughed a seomful laugh. " His brother ! Why, I never 
saw the man tiU ten minutes before you did." 

" Bless me !" said the old doctor, " you amaze me. I should 
have taken you for twin brothers. The likeness between yon 
18 something wonderful; in spite, too, of the great difference 
in your clothes. Dressed alike, it would be impossible to teU 
one from the other." 

" You really think so P" 

" The fact must strike any one." 

Jabez North was silent for a little time after this. Pre- 
sently, as he parted from the doctor at a street-comer, he 
said — 

" And you reaUy think "Aere's very httle chance of this pool 
man's recovery ?" 

" I'm afraid there is positively none. Unless a wonderful 
change takes place for the better, in three days he will be a 
dead man. Good night." 

" Good night," says Jabez, thoughtfully. And he walked 
slowly home. 

It would seem about this time that he was turning his atten- 
tion to his personal appearance, and in some danger of becoming 
a fop ; for the next morning he bought a bottle of hair-dye, and 
tried some experiments with it on one or two of his own hght 
ringlets, which he cut off for that purpose. 

It would seem a very trivial employment for so superior 
and intellectual a man as Jabez North, but it may be that 
every action of this man's life, however apparently trivial, boro 
towards one deep and settled purpose. 



CHAPTER in. 

A GOLDEN SECRET. 

Me. Jabez North, being of such a truly benevolent character, 
came the next day to Blind Peter, full of kind and sympathetic 
inquiries for the sick man. For once in a way he offered 
something more than sympathy, and administered what little 
help he' could afford fix)m his very slender purse. Truly a good 
youuff man, this Jabez. 



A Goiaen Secret. 67 

The dilapidated hoase in Blind Peter looked still more dreary 
ftnd dilapidated in the daylight, or in such light as was called 
daylight by the denizens of that wretched alley. By this lights 
too, Jim Lomaz looked none the better, with hungry pincmed 
features, bloodshot eyes, and two bnming crimson spots on his 
hollow cheeks. He was asleep when Jabez entered. The girl 
was still seated by his side, never looking np, or taking ner 
large dark eyes from his fiice — never stirring, except to re- 
arrange the poor bundle of rags which served as a pillow for 
the man's weary head, or to pour out his medicine, or moiston 
his hot forehead with wet linen. The old woman sat by the 
great gaunt fireplace, where she had lighted a few sticks, and 
made the best fire she could, by the doctor's orders ; for the 
place was damp and draughty, even in this warm June weather. 
She was rocking herself to and fro on a low three-legged stool, 
and muttoring some disconnected jargon. 

When Jabez had spoken a few words to the sick man, and 
made his ofier of assistance, he did not leave the place, but 
stood on the hearth, looking with a thoughtful face at the old 
woman. 

She was not quite right in her mind, according to general 
opinion in Blind Peter; and if a Commission of Lunacy had 
been called upon to give a return of her state of intellect on 
that day, I think that return would have agreed with the 
opinion openly expressed in a friendly manner by her neigh- 
bours. 

She kept muttering to herself, "And so, my deary, this 
is the other one. The water couldn't have been deep enough. 
But it's not my fault, Lucy dear, for I saw it safely put 
away." 

" What did you see so safely put away P " asked Jabez, in so 
low a voice as to be heard neither by the sick man nor the girl. 

"Wouldn't you like to know, deary ?" mumbled the old hag, 
looking up at him with a malicious grin. "Don't you very 
much want to know, my dear P But you never will ; or if you 
ever do, you must be a rich man fiist; for it's part of the 
secret, and the secret's gold — as long as it is kept, my dear, 
and it's been kept a many years, and kept faithful." 

" Does he know itP" Jabez asked, pointing to the sick man. 

" No, my dear ; he'd want to tell it. I mean to sell it some 
day, for it's worth a mint of money ! • A mint of money I He 
doesn't know it — ^nor she — not that it matters to her ; bat it 
does matter to him." 

** Then yon had best let him know before three days are over 
or hell never know it !" said the schoolmaster. 

*Why not, deary P" 

* Ke?er yon mind I I want to speak to you\ and Idon^ «%sA 



68 The Trail of the Serpent 

those two to hear what I say. Can we go anywhere hereabonta 
where I can talk to you without the chance of being orerheard P '* 

The old woman nodded assent, and led the way with feeble 
tottering steps out of the house, and through a gap in a hedge 
to some broken ground at the back of Blind Peter. Here the 
old crone seated herself upon a little hillock, Jabez standing 
opposite her, looking her full in the face. 

" Now," said he, with a determined look at the grinning face 
before him, " now tell me, — ^what was the something that was 
put away so safely P And what relation is that man in there 

to meP Tell me, and teU me the truth, or ** He only 

finishes the sentence with a threatening look, but the old 
woman finishes it for him,— 

" Or you'll kill me — eh, deary P I'm old and feeble, and you 
might easily do it — eh? But you won't — ^you won't, deary! 
You know better than that ! nill me, and you'll never know 
the secret ! — the secret that may be gold to you some day, and 
that nobody aliye but me can tell. If you'd got some yery 
precious wine in a glass bottle, my dear, you wouldn't smasn 
the bottle now, would you P because, you see, you couldn't smash 
the bottle without spilling the wine. And you won't lay so 
much as a rough finger upon me, I know." 

The usher looked rather as if he would haye liked to lay the 
whole force of ten very rough fingers upon the most yital part 
of the grinning ha^'s anatomy at that moment — ^but he re- 
strained himself, as if by an enbrt, and thrust his hands deep 
into his trousers-pockets, in order the better to resist temptation. 

"Then you don't mean to tell me what I asked youP" he 
said impatiently. 

" Don't be in a hurry, my dear ! I'm an old woman, and I 
don't like to be hurried. "What is it you want to know P " 

** What that man in there is to me." 

"Own brother — ^twin brother, my dear — ^that's all. And 
I'm your grandmotbsr — ^your mother's mother. Ain't you 
pleased to find your rels-tions, my blessed boy P " 

If he were, he had a strange way of showing pleasure; a 
very strange manner of welcoming newly-found relations, if 
his feelings were to be judged by that contracted brow and 
moody glance. 

" Is ttiis true ?" he asked. 

The old harridan looked at him and grinned. " That's an ugly 
mark you've got upon your left arm, my dear," she said, "just 
above the elbow; it's very lucky, though, it's under your coat- 
sleeve, where nobody can see it." 

Jabez started. He had indeed a scar upon his arm, though 
very few people knew of it. He remembered it from ms 
earijeat days in the Slopperton workhouse. 






A Oolden Secret. 69 

" Do yon know how yon came by that mark P " continued 
the old woman. " Shall I tell yon r "Why, yon fell into the 
fire, deary, when yon were only three weeks old. We'd been 
drinking a little bit, my dear, and we weren't nsed to drinking 
much then, nor to eatmg mnch either, and one of us let you 
tumble into the fireplace, and before we could get you out, your 
arm was burnt ; but you got over it, my dear, and three days 
after that yon had the misiortune to fall into the water." 

•* You threw me in, you old she-devil ! " he exclaimed fiercely 

"Come, come," she said, "you are of the same stock, so I 
wouldn't call names if I were you. Perhaps I did throw you 
into the Sloshy. I don't want to contradict you. If you say 
so, I dare say I did. I suppose you think me a very unnatural 
old woman P" 

" It wouldn't be so strange if I did." 

" Do yon know what choice we had, your mother and mo, as 
to what we were to do with our youngest hope— -you're younger 
by two hours than your brother in there r Why, there was 
the river on one side, and a life of misery, perhaps starvation, 
perhaps worse, on the other. At the very best, such a life as he 
m there has led — hard labour and bad rood, long toilsome days 
and short nights, and bad words and black looks from all who 
ought to help him. So we thought one was enough for that, 
and we chose the river for the other. Yes, my precious boy, I 
took you down to the river-side one very dark night and 
dropped you in where I thought the water was deepest; but, 
yon see, it wasn't deep enougn for yon. Oh, dear," she said, 
with an imbecile grin, " I suppose there's a fate in it, and yon 
were never bom to be drowned." 

Her hopeful grandson looked at her with a savage frown. 

"Drop that!" he said, "I don't want any of your cursed 
wit." 

" Don't yon, deary P Lor, I was quite a wit in my yonn j^ 
days. They nsed to call me Lively Betty ; but that's a long 
time ago." 

There was sufficient left, however, of the liveliness of a long 
Ibne ago to give an air of ghastly mMh to the old woman's 
tianner, which made that manner extremely repulsive. What 
can be more repulsive than old age, which, shorn of the beautici 
ttnd graces, is yet not purified from the follies or the vices of 
departed youth ? 

" And so, my dear, the water wasn't deep enough, and jou 
were saved. How did it all come about P TeU us, my precious 
boy?" 

" Yes ; I dare say you'd like to know," replied her " precioua 
boy," — "but yon caa keep your secret, and I can keeij miiL^^ 
Perhaps you'll ieH me whether my motlaer \s «i^N^ at ^tK^^^'*'* 



I 



■ :, .'■/ i -. 'AZ^\{ 






.-.■ ; v.-. .- ::.^n o( 



-■N. '.''.•v/r vou ask 

' -Ovid's not B> 

'.'■.ilkiiiix of that 

• r. nor helj) her, 

V. :ioro she's gone 

! ' oa!i need it, she 

I. ■ 

• '.I'.ii.ms don't seem 

V :^» write tlie history 

. . 'i" some kind or other. 

.V Muiii. relapsing into the 

'.- ■■ tlie tascinating Mr. 
.. vo t'ae lite out of your 

,• w'.r latlitT was. Eh? 
'." i!ie L,oldeu secret that 

. . . •• ••.r.K'r 
••x*ii.i[\^ I never knew it — 

;: 'liv-aut. and wretched, 

.• .'vN'!^, the slush in tho 

. ' I with their dirty Louts ? 

!u» WHS, I shan't put 

.r iiupiirios aLout him." 

,.■ '»■.•!•. to have been a fine 

• "Livipiis, oh, my blessed 

.v.i tor you, eh ? What do 

. \% !•..!■. lu» did say; not quite 

. ■• ; tv> any marquis, or to 

. \. , ■ '. v»iu\ and him, by the 

<\\vd tv» mention. 

■ ..M ;>. s,'rinnimjrj*. and gesti- 

■:..;-,l in the old crone's face 

v^'jv uuu*h as if he would 

'\- -v-iV.i-nod frv»m that tompta- 

.1 \%aAv'vl otf in the direction of 



Jim looks over the Brink of the Terrible GMf. 71 

" Oh, yes, deary, you're a nice young man, and a clever, oivil- 
epoken young man, and a credit to them that reared you ; but 
you'll never have the golden secret out of me till you've got the 
money to pay for it." 



CHAPTER IV. 

JDC LOOKS OVEE TIIE BRINK OP TUE TEKBIBLB GULF. 

The light had gone down on the last of the days through which, 
according to the doctor's prophecy, Jim Lomax was to Hve to 
see that light. 

Poor Jim's last sun sank to his rest upon such cloud-pillow« 
of purple and red, and drew a curtain oi such gorgeous colours 
round him in the western sky, as it would have very much 
puzzled any earthly monarch to have matched, though Ruskin 
himself had chosen the colours, and Turner had been the man to 
lay them on. Of course some of this red sunset flickered and 
faded upon the chimney-pots and window-panes — ^rare luxuries, 
by the bye, those window-panes — of Blind Peter ; but there it 
*ame in a modified degree only — this blessed sign-manual of an 
AJ mighty Power — as all earthly and heavenly blessings should 
come to the poor. 

One ray of the crimson light fell full upon the face of the sick 
man, and slanted from him upon the dark hair of the girl, who 
sat on the ground in her old position by the bedside. This light, 
which fell on them and on no other object in the dusky room, 
seemed to unite them, as though it were a messenger from the 
sky that said, " They stand alone in the world, and never have 
been meant to stand asunder." 

"It's a beautiful light, lass," said the sick man, "and I 
wonder I never cared more to notice or to watch it than I have. 
Lord, I've seen it many a time sinking behind the sharp edge ot 
ploughed land, as if it had dug its own grave, and was glad to 
go down to it, and I've thought no more of it than a bit of 
candle ; but now it seems such a beautiful Hght, and I feel as if 
I should like to see it again, lass." 

" And you will — you will see it again, Jim." She drew his 
head upon her bosom, and stroked the rough hair away from his 
damp forehead. She was half dead herself, with want, anxiety, 
and fatigue ; but she spoke in a cheerful voice. She had not 
shed a tear throughout his illness. " Lord help you, Jim dear, 
you'll Hve to see many and many a bright sunset — ^live to see it 
go down upon our wedding-day, perhaps." 

"N"o, no, lass; that's a day no sun will ever shine upon. 
Ton moat get another sweetheart, and. a 'be\A/(vt Qw<^ ^B^KJy|^ 



72 The Trail of the Serpent. 

I'tjusiire yoa deserve a better one, for you're true, lass, trae &a 
Bteel." 

Thft girl drew his head closer to her breast, and bending over 
him, kissed his dry lips. She never thonght, or cared to know, 
what fever or what poison she might inhale in that caress. If she 
had thought abont it, perhaps she wonld have prayed that the 
same fever which had struck iiim down might lay her low beside 
him. He spoke again, as the light, with a lingering glow, 
brightened, and flickered, and then faded out. 

** It's gone; it's gone for ever; it's behind me now, lass, and 

must look straight before ** 

" At what, Jim ?—at what P " 

" At a terrible gulf, my lass. I'm a-standins on the edge of 
it, and I'm a-looking down to ihe bottom of it-— a cold dark 
lonesome place. But perhaps there's another light beyond it, 
lass ; who knows ? " 

" Some say they do know, Jim," said the girl ; " some say 
they do know, and that there is another light beyond, better 
than the one we see here, and always shining. Some people do 
know all about it, Jim." 

" Then why didn't they tell us about it P" asked the man, 
with an angry expression in his hollow eyes. "I suppose 
those as taught them meant them to teach us ; but I suppose 
they didn't think us worth the teaching. How many will bo 
sorry for me, lass, when I am gone ? l^ot grandmother ; her 
brain's crazed with that fancy of hers of a golden secret — as if 
she wouldn't have sold it long before this if she'd had a secret — 
sold it for bread, or more likely for gin. Not anybody in Blind 
Peter — they've enough to do to think of the bit of food to put 
inside them, or of the shelter to cover their unfortunate heads. 
Nobody but you, lass, nobody but you, will be sorry for me ; 
and I think you will." 

He thinks she will be sorry. What has been the story of her 
life but one long thought and care for him, in which her every 
sorrow and her every joy have taken their colour from joys and 
sorrows of his P 

While they are talking, Jabez comes m, and, seating himself 
on a low stool by the bed, talks to the sick man. 

"And so," says Jim, looking him full in the face with a 
curious glance — "so you're mv brother — ^the old woman's told 
me all about it — my twin brother ; so like me, tiiat it's quite a 
treat to look at you. It's like looking in a glass, and that's & 
luxary I've never been accustomed to. Light a candle, lass ; I 
want to see my brother's face." 

His brother was against the lighting of the candls — it might 
hurt the eyes of the sufierer, he suggested ; but Jim repeated 
^request, and the girl obeyed. 



Jim looks over the Brink of the Terrible Ou\f, 73 

" Now come liere and hold the candle, lass, and hold it close 
io my brother's face, for I want to have a good look at him." 

Mr. Jabez North seemed scarcely to rehsh the unflinching 
^aze of his newly-found relation ; and again those fine blue eyes 
for which he was distinguished, winked and shifted, and hid 
themselves, under the scrutiny of the sick man. 

"It's a handsome face," said Jim; "and it looks like the 
fiace of one of your fine high-born gentlemen too, which is rather 
queer, considering who it belongs to ; but for all that, I can't 
say it's a face I much care about. There's something under — 
something behind the curtain. I say, brother, you're hatching 
of some plot to-night, and a very deep-laid plot it is too, or my 
name isn t Jim Lomax." 

•* Poor fellow," murmured the compassionate Jabez, ** his 
mind wanders sadly." 

" Does it ? " asked the sick man ; " does my mind wander, 
lad ? I hope it does ; I hope I can't see very clear to-night, for 
I didn't want to think my own brother a villain. I don t want 
to think bad of thee, lad, if it's only for my dead mother's sake." 

"You hear !" said Jabez, with a glance of appeal to the girl, 
** you hear how deUrious he is ? " 

" Stop a bit, lad," cried Jim, with sudden energy, laying his 
wasted £and upon his brother's wrist ; " stop a bit. I'm dying 
fast ; and before it's too late I've one prayer to make. I haven't 
made so many either to God or man that I need forget this one. 
You see this lass ; we've been sweethearts, I don't know how 
long, now — ever since she was a little toddling thing that I 
could carry on my shoulder; and, one of these days, when 
wages got to be better, and bread cheaper, and hopes brighter, 
somehow, for poor folks like us, we was to have been married ; 
but that's over now. Keep a good heart, lass, and don't look so 
white ; perhaps it's better as it is. Well, as I was saying, we've 
been sweethearts for a many year, and often when I haven't 
been able to get work, maybe sometimes when I haven't been 
willing, when I've been lazy, or on the drink, or among bad 
companions, this lass has kept a shelter over me, and given me 
bread to eat with the labour of her own hands. She's been true 
to me. I could tell you how true, but there's something about 
the comers of your mouth that makes me think you wouldn't 
care to he,ar it. But if you want me to die in peace, promise 
me this — ^that as long as you've got a shilling she shall never be 
without a sixpence ; that as long as you've got a roof to covei 
your head she shall never be without a shelter. Promise !" 

He tightened his gi*asp convulsively upon his brother's wrist. 
That gentleman made an effort to look him full in the face ; but 
not seeming to relish the searching gaze of ti\ft ^y2a% \&aa^% 
*»7pfl, Mr. Jabez '^orih was compelled ^ drop \i\a o^m. 



i 



f4k The Ttml of the Serpent. 

'*Comef** said Jim ; "promise — swear to me, by all you hoU 
flacred, that yoTi*ll do this." 

"I swear!" said Jabez, solemnly. 

" And if you break your oath," added his brother, ** nevei 
«ome anigh the place where I'm buried, for 1*11 rise out of my 
grave and haxmt you." 

The dying man fell back exhausted on his pillow. The girl 
poured out some medicine and gave it to him, while Jabez 
walked to the door, and looked up at the skr. 

A very dark sky for a night in June. A wide black canopy 
hung over the eartn, and as yet there was not one feeble star to 
brea£ the inky darkness. A threatening night — ^the low mur- 
muring of whose sultry wind moaned and whispered prophecies 
of a coming storm. Never had the blindness of Blind Peter 
been darker than to-night. You could scarcely see your hand 
before you. A wretched woman who had just fetched half-a- 
quartem of gin from the nearest public-house, though a denizen 
of the place, and familiar with every broken flag-stone and 
crumbling brick, stumbled over her own threshold, and spilt a 
portion of the precious liquid. 

It would have been difficult to imagine either the heavens oi 
the earth under a darker aspect in the month of June. 'NoU 
BO, however, thought Mr. Jabez North ; for, after contemplating 
the sky for some moments in silence, he exclaimed — " A fine 
night ! • A glorious night ! It could not be better 1" 

A figure, one shade darker than the night, came between him 
and the darkness. It was the doctor, who said — 

" Well, sir, I'm glad you think it a fine night ; but I must 
beg to difier with you on the subject, for I never remember 
seeing a blacker sky, or one that threatened a more terrible 
storm at this season of the year." 

" I was scarcely thinking of what I was saying, doctor. That 
poor man in there " 

" Ah, yes ; poor fellow ! I doubt if he'H witness the stonu, 
near as it seems to be. I suppose you take some interest in 
him on account of his extraordmary fikeness to you P " 

" That would be rather an egotistical reason for being inte- 
rested in him. Common humanity induced me to come down 
to this wretched place, to see if I could be of any service to the 
poor creature." 

"The action does you credit, sir," said the doctor. "And 
now for my patient." 

It was with a very grave face that the medical man looked at 

poor Jim, who had, W this time, fallen into a fitful and restless 

slumber ; and when Jabez drew him aside to ask his opinion, he 

/gajd, — "If he lives through the next half-hour I shsdl be sur- 

prised. Where ia the old woman — ^bis grandmothex ?" 



Jim loolss aver the Brink of the Terrible CMj. 75 

"I haven't seen her this evening," answered Jahez. And 
then, turning to the girl, he asked her if she knew where the old 
woman was. 

** No ; she went ont some time ago, and didn't say where she 
was going. She's not qnite right in her mind, yon know, sir, 
and often goes ont after dark." 

The doctor seated himself on a broken chair, near the mattress 
on which the sick man lay. Only one feeble ^ttering candle^ 
vdth a long, top-heavy wict, lighted the dismal and comfortless 
room. Jabez paced np and down with that soft step of which 
we have before spoken. Although in his character of a philoso- 
pher the death of a fellow-«creatnre could scarcely have been 
very distressing to him, there was an uneasiness in his manner 
on this night which he could not altogether conceal. He looked 
from the doctor to the girl, and n'om the girl to his sick 
brother. Sometimes he paused in his walk up and down the 
room to peer out at the open door. Once he stooped over the 
feeble candle to look at nis watch. There was a listening 
expression too in his eyes ; an uneasy twitching about his mouth ; 
and at times he could scarcely suppress a tremulous action ot 
his slender fingers, which bespoke impatience and agitation. 
Presently the clocks of Slopperton chimed the first quaxter after 
ten. On hearing this, Jabez drew the medical man aside, and 
whispered to him, — 

" Are there no means," he said, " of getting that poor girl out 
of the way P She is very much attached to that unfortunate 
creature; and if he dies, I fear there will be a terrible scene. 
It would be an act of mercy to remove her by some stratagem 
or other. How can we get ner away till it is all over ?" 

" I think I can manage it," said the doctor. " My partner 
has a surgery at the ouier end of the town; I will send hef 
there." 

He returned to the bedside, and presently said, — 

" Look here, my good girl ; I am going to write a prescription 
for something wmch I tmnk will do our patient good. Will you 
take it for me, and get the medicine made up ?" 

The girl looked at him with an appealing glance in hei 
mournful eyes. 

" I don't like to leave him, sir." 

"But if it's for his good, my dearP" 

" Yes, yes, sir. You're very kind. I will go. I can run all the 
the way. And you won't leave him while I'm gone, will you, sir P" 

"No, my good girl, I won't. There, there; here's the pre- 
icription. It's written in pencil, but the assistant wiU under- 
stand it. Now listen, while I tell you where to find the 
Burgery." 

"He gave her the direction ; and aftent a'fiiigeTOi^ ^lA TJiQroxc&^^ 



The Trail of the Serpent. 

look at her lover, vrho still slept, she left the hoTis6» and darted 
'^iF in the direction of Slopperton. 

*' If she runs as fast as that all the way," said Jabez, as he 
watched her receding figore, " she will be oack in less than an 
honr." 

" Then she will find him either past all help, or better," re- 
plied the doctor. 

Jabez' pale face tamed white as death at this word " better." 

** Better I" he said. ** Is there any chance of his recovery ?" 

« There are wonderful chances in this race between life and 
death. This sleep may be a crisis. If he wakes, there may be 
a faint hope of his living." 

Jabez' hand shook l&e a leaf. He tamed his back to the 
doctor, walked once np and down the room, and then asked, 
with lus old calmness, — 

** And yon, sir — ^yoo, whose time is of sach valae to so many 
sick persons — ^yoa can afford to desert them all, and remain 
here, watching this manP" 

"His case is a singalar one, and interests me. Besides, 1 
do not know that I mive any patient in imminent danger to- 
night. My assistant has my address, and would send for me 
were my services peculiarly needed." 

" I will go out and smoKe a cigar," said Jabez, after a pause. 
** I can scarcely support this sick room, and the suspense of this 
terrible conflict between life and death." 

He strode out into the darkness, was absent about five 
minutes, and returned. 

" Your cigar did not last long," remarked the doctor. " You 
are a quick smoker. Bad for tne system, sir." 

" My cigar was a bad one. I threw it away." 

Shortly afterwards there was a knock at the door, and a 
ragged vagabond-looking boy, peeping in, asked, — 

" Is Mr. Saunders the doctor here r " 

" Yes, my lad. Who wants meP" 

** A young woman up in Hill Fields, sir, what's took poison* 
they say. You're wanted very bad." 

"Poison! that's urgent," said Mr. Saunders. "Who sent 
you here for me P" 

The lad looked with a puzzled expression at Jabez standing 
in the shadow, who, unperceived by the doctor, whispered some- 
thing behind his haoid. 

" Surgery, sir," answered the boy, still looking at Jabez. 

" Oh, you were sent from the surgery. I must be off, for this 
is no doubt a desperate case. I must leave you to look after 
this poor fellow, if he wakes, give him two teaspoonftils of 
that medicine there. I could do no more if I stopped myself. 
Come, my lad." 



Jim looks over the Brink of the Terrible Oulf, V7 

The doctor lefb the honse, followed by the boy, and in a fe^ 
moments both were lost in the darkness, and far out of the ken 
*f Blind Peter. 

Five minutes after the departure of the medical man Jabez 
went to the door, and after looking out at the squalid houses, 
which were all dark, gave a long low whistle. 

A figure crept out of the darkness, and came up to where he 
stood. It was the old woman, his grandmother. 

" All's right, deary," she T»^hispered. " Bill Withers has got 
everything ready. He's a waitmg down by the wall yonder. 
Tliere's not a mortal about ; and I'll keep watch. You'll want 
Bill's help. When you're ready for hun, you're to whistle 
softly three times running. He'll know what it means — and 
I'm going to watch while he helps you. Haven't I managed 
beautiful, deary P and shan't I deserve the golden sovereigns 
you've promised me? They was guineas always when I was 
young, deary. Nothing's as good now as it used to be." 

" Don't let us have any chattering," said Jabez, as he laid a 
rough hand upon her arm ; " unless you want to wake everybody 
in the place." 

"But, I say, deary, is it all over? Nothing unfair, you know. 
Bemember your promise." 

" All over P Yes ; half an hour ago. If you hinder me here 
with your talk, the girl will be back before we're ready for her." 

" Let me come in and close his eyes, deary," supplicated the old 
woman. " His mother was my own child. Let me close his eyes." 

"Keep where you are, or I'll strangle you!" growled her 
dutiful grandson, as he shut^the door upon his venerable rela- 
tion, and left her mumbling upon the threshold. 

Jabez crept cautiously towards the bed on which his brother 
lay. Jim at this moment awoke from his restless slumber; 
and, opening his eyes to their widest extent, looked full at thu 
man by his side. He made no effort to speak, pointed to his 
lips, and, stretching out his hand towards the bottles on the 
table, made signs to his brother. These signs were a supplica- 
tion for the cooling draught which always allayed the burning 
heat of the fever. 

Jabez never stirred. " He has awoke," he murmured. " This 
is the crisis of his life, and of my fate." 

The clocks of Slopperton chimed the quarter before eleven. 

" It's a black ^ulf, lass," gasped the dying man ; " and I'm 
fbst sinking into it." 

There was no friendly hand, Jim, to draw you back from that 
terrible gulf. The meoicine stood untouched upon the table; 
and, perhaps as guilty as the first murderer, your twin brother 
stood by your bed-side. 



i 



78 The Trail of the Serpent 

CHAPTER V. 

MIDNIGHT BY THE SLOPPEETON CLOCKS. 

The olondB and the sky kept their promise, and as the olocki 
chimed the quarter before twelve the storm broke over the 
steeples at Slopperton. 

Blue lightmng-flashes lit np Blind Peter, and attendant 
thunder-claps shook him to his very foundation ; while a vio- 
lent shower of rain gave him such a washing-down of every 
flagstone, chimney-pot, and door-step, as he did not often get. 
Slopperton in bed was almost afraid to go to sleep ; and Slop- 
perton not in bed did not seem to care about going to bed. 
Slopperton at supper was nervous as to handling of glittering 
knives and steel forks; and Slopperton going to windows to 
look out at the lightning was apt to withdraw hurriedly at 
the sight thereof. Slopperton in general was depressed by the 
storm ; thought there would be mischief somewhere ; and had 
a vague idea that something dreadful would happen before the 
night was out. 

in Dr. Tappenden*s quiet household there was consternation 
and alarm. Mr. Jabez North, the principal assistant, had 
gone out early in the evening, and had not returned at the 
appointed hour for shutting up the house. This was such an 
unprecedented occurrence, that it had occasioned considerable 
uneasiness — especially as t)r. Tappenden was away fix)m home, 
and Jabez was, in a manner, deputy-master of the house. The 
young woman who looked after the gentlemen's wardrobes had 
taken compassion upon the housemaid, who sat up awaiting 
Mr. Korth's return, and had brought her workbox, and 9 
lapful of young gentlemen's dilapidated socks, to the modest 
chamber in which the girl waited. 

" I hope," said the housemaid, " nothing ain't happened to him 
through the storm. I hope he hasn't been getting under no trees." 

The housemaid had a fixed idea that to go under a tree in 
a thunderstonri was to encounter immediate death. 

" Poor dear young gentleman," said the lady of the ward- 
robes ; " I tremble to think what can keep him out so. Such 
a steady young man; never known to be a minute after time 
either. I'm sure every sound I hear makes me expect to see 
him brought in on a shutter." 

** Don't now, Miss Smithers ! *' cried the housemaid, looking 
behind her as if she expected to see the ghost of Jabez North 
pointing to a red spot on his left breast at the back of her 
chair. " I wish yon wouldn't now ! Oh, I hope he ain't been 
murdered. There's been such a many murders in Slopperton 
mnoe I can remember. It's only three years and a hialf ago 



Midniglit hy the Shpperton 01001:9. 79 

sinoe a man cut his wife's throat down in Windmill Lane, 
because she hadn't put no salt in the saucepan when she boiled 
the greens." 

The friffhtful parallel between the woman who boiled the 
greens without salt and Jabez North two hours after his time, 
struck such terror to the hearts of the young women, that they 
were silent for some minutes, during which they both looked 
uneasily at a thief in the candle wliich neither of them had 
the courage to take out — their nerves not being equal to the 
possible chcking of the snuffers. 

" Poor young man !" said the housemaid, at last. " Do you 
know, Miss Smithers, I can't help thinking he has been rather 
low lately." 

Now this word "low" admits of several applications, so 
Miss Smithers replied, rather indignantly, — 

" Low, Sarah Anne ! Not in his language, I'm sure. And 
as to his manners, they'd be a credit to the nobleman that 
wrote the letters." 

"No, no. Miss Smithers; I mean his spirits. I've fancied 
lately he's been a fretting about something; perhaps he's in 
love, poor dear." 

Miss Smithers coloured up. The conversation was getting 
interesting. Mr. North had lent her Easselas, which she 
thought a story of thrilling interest; and she had kept his 
stockiags and shirt buttons in order for three years. Such 
things had happened; and Mrs. Jabez North sounded more 
comfortable than Miss Smithers, at any rate. 

" Perhaps," said Sarah Anne, rather maliciously — "perhaps 
he's been forgetting his situation and giving ^lay to thoughts 
of marrying our young missus. She's got a deal of money, you 
know, Miss Smifiiers, though her figure ain't much to look at." 

Sarah Anne's figure was plenty to look at, having a ten- 
dency to break out mto luxuriance where you least expected it. 

It was in vain that Sarah Anne or Miss Smithers speculated 
on the probable causes of the usher's absence. Midnight struck 
from the Dutch clock in the kitchen, the eight-day clock on the 
staircase, the time-piece in the drawing-room — a liberal and 
complicated piece of machinery which always struck eighteen to 
the dozen — and eventually from every clock in Slopperton ; and 
yet there was no sign of Jabez North. 

No sign of Jabez North. A white face and a pair of glazed 
eyes staring up at the sky, out on a dreary heath three milei 
from Slopperton, exposed to the fury of a pitiless storm ; a man 
Iving alone on a wretched mattress m a miserable apartment in 
Blind Peter — ^but no Jabez North. 

Through the heartless storm, dripping -svet -^phJOdl \iM6 v^\^^c&% 



80 The Trail of the Serpent. 

rain, tlie ^1 they have duistened Sillikens hastens back ta 
Blind Peter. The feeble glimmer oC the candle, with the droopina 
wick sputtering in a pool of grease, is the only light wnich 
illumes that cheerless neighbourhood. The girls heart beati 
with a terrible flutter as she approaches that light, for an agon- 
izing doubt is in her soul about that other light which she left 
so feebly burning, and which may be now extinct. But she 
takes courage; and pushing open the door, which opposes 
neither bolts nor bars to any deluded votary of Mercury, she 
enters the dimly-Hghted room. The man lies with his face 
tume4 to the wall ; the old woman is seated by the hearth, on 
which a dull and struggling flame is burning. She has on i3ie 
table among the medicine-bottles, another, which no doubt con- 
tains spirits, for she has a broken teacup iu her hand, from 
which ever and anon she sips consolation, for it is evident she 
has been crying. ^ ^ 

" Mother, how is he — ^how is he P" the girl asks, with a hurried 
agitation painful to witness, since it reveals how much she 
dreads the answer. 

** Better, deary, better — Oh, ever so much better," the old 
woman answers m a crying voice, and with another application 
to the broken teacup. 

"Better! thank Heaven! — thank Heaven!" and the girl, 
stealing soffcly to the bed-side, bends down and listens to the 
eick man's breathing, which is feeble, but regular. 

"He seems very fast asleep, grandmotlier. Has he been 
deeping all the time P" 

" Since when, deary P" 

" Since I went out. Where's the doctor P" 

" Gone, deary. Oh, my blessed boy, to think that it should 
tome to this, and his dead mother was my only child ! dear, 
dear !" And the old woman burst out crying, only choking 
her sobs by the aid of the teacup. 

"But he's better, grandmother; perhaps he'll get over it 
now. I always said he would. Oh, I'm so glad — so glad." The 
girl sat down in her wet garments, of which she never once 
thought, on the little stool by the side of the bed. Presoutlji 
the sick man turned round and opened his eyes. 

"You've been away a long time, lass," he said. 

Something in his voice, or in his way of speaking, she did 
not know which, startled her ; but she wound her arm round 
his neck, and said — 

" Jim, my own dear Jim, the danger's past. The black gulf 
you've been looking down is closed tor these many happy years 
to come, and mayl:)e the sun will shine on our wedding-day yet." 

•* Maybe, lass — ^maybe. But tell me, what's the time P 

"Never mind the time, Jim. Very late, and a verv dreadful 



Midnight hg the Sloppetton Clods, 81 

lilgtit ; but no matter for that I You're better, Jim ; and if the 
sun never shone upon the earth again, I don't think I should 
be able to be sorry, now you are safe." 

" Are an the lights out in Blind Peter, lass P" he asked. 

** All the lights out P Yes, Jim — these two hours. But why 
do you ask P" 

" And in Slopperton did you meet many people, lass ?" 

" Not half-a-dozen in all the streets. Nobody would be out 
m such a night, Jim, that could help it." 

He turned his face to the wall again, and seemed to sleep. 
The old woman kept moaning and mumbling over the broken 
teacup, — 

" To think that my blessed boy should come to this — on such 
a night too, on such a night !" 

The storm raged with unabated fury, and the rain pouring in 
at the dilapidated door threatened to flood the room. Presently 




drop o' wme, it would put some strength 
me somehow." 

" Grandmother," said the girl, " can I get him any P YouVe 
got some money ; it's only just gone twelve ; I can get in at the 
public-house. I will get in, if I knock them up, to get a drop 
o' wine for Jim." 

The old woman fambled among her rags and produced a 
sixpence, part of the money given her from the slender purse 
of the benevolent Jabez, and the girl hurried away to fetch the 
wine. 

The public-house was called the Seven Stars ; the seven stars 
being represented on a signboard in such a manner as to bear 
rather a striking resemblance to seven yellow hot-cross buns on a 
very blue background. The landlady of the Seven Stars was 
j^utting her hair in papers when the girl called Sillikens invaded 
the sanctity of her private life. "Why she underwent the pain and 

grief of curling her hair for the admiration of such a neighbour- 
ood as Blind Peter is one of those enigmas of this dreary 
existence to solve which the CEdipus has not yet appeared. 1 
don't suppose she much cared about suspending her toilet, and 
opening ner bar, for the purpose of selling sixpennyworth of 
port wme ; but when she heard it was for a sick man, she did 
not grumble. The girl thanked her heartily, and hurried home- 
wards with her pitiral measure of wine. 

Through the pitiless rain, and under the dark sky, it wag 
almost impossible to see your hand before you ; but as Sillikens 
entered the mouth of Blmd Peter, a flash of lightning revealed 
to her the figure of a man gliding with a Boi\. «»\je^ \i^V??^«QL *OaA 

broken iron rajlinga. In the instantaTieaaa ^mi\>%^ ^<6 Q»».^gcj^ 

If 



8S The Trail of fhe Serpent. 

if hiiift under the blue light, something familiar in his flsoe oi 
brm quickened the beating of her heart, and made her turn to 
iook back at him ; but it was too dark for her to see more than 
the indistinct £^fnre of a man hurrying away in the direction 
of Slopperton. Wondering who could be leaving Blind Pete? 
on sucli a night and at such an hour, she banned back to 
tarry her lover th#T wine. 

The old woman still sat before the hearth. The sputtering 
candle had gone out, and the light from the miserable little fire 
only revealed the dark outlines of the wretched furniture and 
the figure of Jim's grandmother, looking, as she sat mumbling 
over the broken teacup, like a wicked witch performing an 
incantation over a portable cauldron. 

The girl hurried to the bed-side — the sick man was not there. 

" Grandmother ! Jim — Jim ! Where is he ? " she asked, in an 
alarmed voice ; for the figure she had met hurrying through the 
storm flashed upon her with a strange distmctness. " Jim ! 
Grandmother! tell me where he is, or I shall go mad! Not 
gone — not gone out on such a night as this, and in a burning 
fever P" 

" Yes, lass, he's gone. My precious boy, my darling boy. His 
dead mother was my only child, and he's gone for ever and ever, 
and on this dreadful night. I'm a miserEible old woman." 

No other explanation than this, no other words than theses 
chattered and muttered again and again, could the wretched 
girl extort from the old woman, who, half imbecile and more 
than half tipsy, sat grinning and grunting over the teacup tiU she 
fell asleep in a heap on the cold damp hearth, still hugging the 
empty teacup, and still muttering, even in her sleep, — 

" His dead mother was my only child ; and it's very cruel it 
8hould come to this at last, and on such a night." 



CHAPTEE YI. 

THE QUIET PIGURE ON THE HEATH. 

The morning after the storm broke bright and clear, promising 
a hot summer's day, but also promising a pleasant breeze to 
counterbalance the neat of the sun. This was the legacy of the 
storm, which, dying out about three o'clock, after no purposeless 
fury, had left behind it a better and purer air in place of the 
sultry atmosphere which had heralded its coming. 

Mr. Joseph Peters, seated at breakfast this morning, attended 

by Kuppins nursing the " fondling," has a great de^ to sa^ by 

means of the dirty alphabet (greasy from the effects of matutinal 

bacon) about last night's storm, kuppins has in nowise altered 

Mtoce we last saw her, and four montag have made no change in 



The Quiet Figure on the Heath, 83 

tlie inscrutable physiognomy of the silent detective; but four 
months have made a difference in the « fondling," now familiarly 
known as "baby." Baby is short-coated; baby takes notice. 
This accomplishment of taking notice appears to consist chiefly 
in snatching at every article within its reach, from Kncpins s 
luxuriant locks to the hot bowl of Mr. Peters*s pipe. BaBy also 
is possessed of a marvellous pair of shoes, which are alternately 
in ids mouth, under the fender, and upon his feet— to^ say nothing 
of their occasionally finding their way out of the window, on tc 
the dust-heap, and into divers other domestic recesses too 
numerous to mention. Baby is also possessed of a cap with 
frills, which it is Kuppins's delight to small-plait, and the delight 
of baby to demolish. Baby is devotedly attached to Kuppins, 
and evinces his affection by such pleasing demonstrations as 
poking his fists down her throat, hanging on to her nose, pushing 
a tobacco-pipe up her nostrils, and other equally gratifying 
proofs of infantine regard. Baby is, in short, a wonderful 
child ; and the eye of Mr. Peters at breakfast wanders from his 
bacon and his water-cresses to his young adopted, with a look of 
pride he does not attempt to conceal. 

Mr. Peters has risen in his profession since last February. 
He has assisted at the discovery of two or three robberies, and 
nas evinced on those occasions such a degree of tact, triumphing 
so completely over the difficulties he labours under from hi 
infirmity, as to have won for himself a better place in the police 
force of Slopperton — and of course a better salary. But business 
has been dull lately, and Mr. Joseph Peters, who is ambitious, 
has found no proper field for his abilities as yet. 

" I should like an iron-safe case, a regular out-and-out 
burglary," he muses, ** or a good forgery, say to the tune of a 
thousand or so. Or a bit of bigamy ; that would be something 
new. But a jolly good poisoning case might make my fortune. 
If that there little 'un was growed up," he mentally ejaculated, 
as Kuppins's charge gave an unusually loud scream, " his lungs 
might be a fortune to me. Lord," he continued, waxing meta- 
physical, " I don't look upon that hinfant as a hinfant, I looks 
upon him as a voice." 

The " voice " was a very powerful one just at this moment ; 
for in an interval of affectionate weakness Kuppins had regaled 
the " fondling " on the rind of Mr. Peters's rasher, which, not 
harmonizing with the limited development of his swallowing 
apparatus, had brought out the pxirple tints in his complexion 
mth alarming violence. 

For a long time Mr. Peters mused, and at last, after signalling 
Kuppins, as was his wont on commencing a conversation, with 
i& loud snap of his finger and thumb, he began thus •. 

"There's a case of shop-lifting at HaHoT^'a ^^^\}£i» tjsAT^^ 



84 The Trail of the Serpent, 

f^t to go over and look up some evidence in the village. I'll teD 
yon what 1*11 do with you ; I'll take you and baby over iu 
Vorkins's trap — he said as how he'd lend it me whenever I liked 
to ask him for the loan of it ; and I'll stand treat to the Eos^ 
bush, tea-gardens." 

Never nad the dirty alphabet fashioned such sweet words. 
A drive in Mr. Vorkins's trap, and the Eosebush tea-gardens I 
If Kuppins had been a fairy changeling, and had awoke one 
morning to find herself a queen, I don't think she would have 
chosen any higher delight wherewith to celebrate her accession 
to the throne. 

^ Kuppins had, during the few months of Mr. Peters's residence 
in the indoor Eden of jN*o. 6, Little Gulliver Street, won a very 
high place in that gentleman's regards. The elderly proprietress 
of the Eden was as nothing in the eyes of Mr. Peters when 
compared with Kuppins. It was Kuppins whom he consulted 
when giving his orders for dinner ; Kuppins, whose eye he knew 
to be infallible as regarded a chop, either mutton or pork ; whose 
finger was as the finger of Fate in tl^ie matter of hard or soft- 
roed herrings. It was by Kuppins's advice he purchased some 
mysterious garment for the baby, or some prodigious wonder in 
the shape of a bandanna or a neck-handkerchief for himself; 
and this tea-garden treat he had long contemplated as a fitting 
reward for the fidelity of his handmaiden. 

Mr. Yorkins was one of the officials of the police force, and 
Mr. Vorkins's trap was a happy combination of the cart of a 
vender of feHne provisions and the gig of a fast young man of 
half a century gone by — ^that is to say, it partook of the dis- 
advantages of each, without {possessing the capabilities of 
either : but Mr. Peters looked at it with respect, and in the eye 
of Kuppins it was a gorgeous and fashionable vehicle, which 
the most distinguished member of the peerage might have 
driven along the Lady's Mile, at six o'clock on a midsummer 
afternoon, with pride and dehght. 

At two o'clock on this June afternoon, behold Mr. Vorkins's 
trap at the door of No. 5, Little Gulliver Street, with Kuppins 
in a miraculous bonnet, and baby in a wonderful hat, seated 
therein. Mr. Peters, standing on the pavement, contemplated 
the appointments of the equipage with some sense of pride, 
and tne juvenile population of the street hovered around^ 
absorbed in admiration of the turn-out. 

" Mind your bonnet don't make the wehicle top-heavy, miss," 
said one youthful votary of the renowned Joe Miller ; " it's big 
enough, anyways." 

Miss Kuppins (she was Miss Kuppins in her Sunday costume) 

Bung a Parthian glance at the young barbarian, and drew down 

« green veH, which, next to the '" fondAmg " >w^a tldft ■^xlde of hes 



The Quiet Figure on the Heath. 85 

heart. Mr. Peters, aimed with a formidable whip, moimted to 
his seat by her side, and away drove the trap, leaving the 
juvenile population aforesaid venting its envy in the explosion 
of a perfect artillery of jeux de mots, 

"i/^r, Yorkins's trap was as a fairy vehicle to Knppins, and 
Mr, Yorkins's elderly pony an enchanted quadruped, under the 
strokes of whose winged hoofs Slopperton flew away Hke a 
smoky dream, and was no more seen — an enchanted quadruped, 
by whose means the Slopperton suburbs of unfinished houses, 
scaffolding, barren ground for sale in building lots, ugly lean 
streets, and inky river, all melted into the distance, giving place 
to a road that intersected a broad heath, in the undulations of 
which lay fairy pools of blue water, in whose crystal depths the 
good people m^ht have admired their tiny beauties as in a 
mirror. Indeed, it was pleasant to ride in Mr. Yorkins's jing- 
ling trap through the pure country air, scented with the odours 
of distant bean-fields, and, looking back, to see the smoke of 
Sloppertonian chimneys a mere black daub on the blue sky, and 
to be led almost to wonder how, on the face of such a fair and 
lovely earth, so dark a blot as Slopperton could be. 

The Eosebush tea-gardens were a favourite resort of Slop- 
perton on a Sunday afternoon ; and many teachers there were 
m that great city who did not hesitate to say that the rose- 
bushes of those gardens were shrubs planted bv his Satanic 
Majesty, and that the winding road over Halford's Heath, 
though to the ignorant eye bordered by bright blue streams and 
sweet-smeUing wild flowers, lay in reality between two lakes of 
fire and brimstone. Some gentlemen, however, dared to say — 
gentlemen who wore white neckcloths too, and were familiar 
and welcome in the dwellings of the poor — that Slopperton 
might go to more wicked places than Itosebush gardens, and 
might jpossibly be led into more evil courses than tne consump- 
tion of^tea and watercresses at ninepence a-head. But in spite 
of all differences of opinion, the Eosebush gardens prospered, 
and Eosebush tea and bread-and-butter were pleasant in the 
mouth of Slopperton. 

Mr. Peters deposited his fair young companion, with the baby 
in her arms, at the gate of the gardens — after having authorized 
her to order two teas, and to choose an arbour — and walked of! 
himself into the village of Halford to transact his ofSciaJ 
business. 

The ordering of the teas and the choosing of the arbour were 
a labour of love with the fair Kuppins. She selected a rustic 
retreat, over which the luxuriant tendrils of a hoi)-vine fell like a 
thick green curtain. It was a sight to see Kuppins skirmishing 
witii file earwigs and spiders in their sy\va.^l\io^et,^sA^5^^^.• 
wately rouidng those insects from. tl[iQ ixeata oi ^iJassvt iv^ct^v 



86 The l^ail of the Serpent. 

Mr. Peters returned from the village in about an hour, hot and 
dusty, but triumphant as to the issue of the business he had 
come about, and with an inordinate thirst for tea at ninepenca 
a-head. I don't know whether Eosebush gardens made ihuch 
out of the two teas at ninepence, but I know the bread-and- 
butter and watercresses disappeared by the aid of the detective 
and his fair companion as ii* by magic. It was pleasant to 
watch the "fondlmg" during this humble fete cha/mpetre. He 
had been brought up by hand, which would be better expressed 
as by spoon, and had lieen fed on every variety of cosmestible, 
from pap and farinaceous food to beef-steaks and onions and the 
soft roes of red herrings — ^to say nothing of sugar-sticks, bacon 
rinds, and the claws of shell-fish; he therefore, immeidiately 
upon the appearance of the two teas, laid violent hands on a 
bunch of watercresses and a slice of bread-and-butter, wiping 
the buttered side upon his face — so as to give himself the 
appearance of an infant in a violent perspiration — preparatory 
to its leisurely consumption. He also made an onslaught on Mr. 
Peters's cup of steaming tea, but scalding his hands therewith, 
\vithdrew to the bosom of Kuppins, and gave vent to his indig- 
nation in loud screams, which the detective said made the 
gardens quite lively. After the two teas, Mr. Peters, attended 
by Kuppins and the infant, strolled round the gardens, and 
peered into the arbours, very few of which were tenanted this 
week-day afternoon. The detective indulged in a gambling 
speculation with some wonderful machine, the distinguishing 
features of which were numbers and Barcelona nuts ; and by the 
aid of which you might lose as much as threepence half-penny 
before you knew where you were, while you could not by any 
possibility win anything. There was also a bowling-green, 
aiid a swing, which Kuppins essayed to. mount, and which 
repudiated that young lady, by precipitating her forward on 
her face at the first start. 

Having exhausted the mild dissipations of the gardens, Mr. 
Peters and Kuppins returned to their bower, where the gentle- 
man sat smokmg his clay pipe, and contemplating the mfant, 
with a perfect serenity and cabn enjoyment delightful to witness. 
But there was more on Mr.Peters's mind that summer*s evening 
than the infant. He was thinking of the trial of Eichard 
Marwood, and the part he had taken in that trial by means of 
the dirty alphabet ; he was thinking, perhaps, of the fate of 
Eichard — ^poor unlucky Eichard, a hopeless and incurable 
lunatic, imprisoned for life in a dreary asylum, and comforting 
himself in that wretched place by wild fancies of imaginary 
creatness. Presently Mr. Peters, with a preparatory snap ol 
njjsf /infers, aska Kuppins if she can " call to mind mat iben 
stojy of the lion and the maiiBe." 



The Quiet Figure on the Heath. 87 

Kuppins can call it to mind, and proceeds to r.an*ato with 
volubility, Low a lion, once liaving' rendered a service to a mouse, 
found himself caught in a great net, and in need of a friend; 
how this insignificant mouse had, by sheer industry and perse- 
verance, effected the escape of the mighty lion. Whether they 
lived happy ever afterwards Kuppins couldn't say, but had no 
doubt tney did ; that being the legitimate conclusion of every 
legend, in this young lady's opinion. 

Mr. Peters scratched his head violently during this story, to 
which he listened with his mouth very much round the comer ; 
and when it was finished he fell into a reverie that lasted till th© 
distant Slopperton clocks chimed the quarter before eight — at 
which time he laid down his pipe, and departed to prepare Mr. 
Vorkins's trap for the journey nome. 

Perhaps of the two journeys, the journey home was almost 
the more pleasant. It seemed to Kuppins's young imagination 
as if Mr. Peters was bent on driving MJc. Yortins's trap straight 
into the sinking sun, which was going down in a sea of crimson 
loehind a ridge of purple heath. Slopperton was yet invisible, 
except as a dark cloud on the purple sky. This road acro'.-; the 
heatn was very lonely on every evening except Sunday, £^d the 
little party only met one group of haymakers returning from 
their work, and one stout farmer's wife, laden with groceries, 
hastening homo from Slopperton. It was a stni evening, and 
not a sound rose upon the clear air, except the last song of a 
bird or the chirping of a grasshopper. Perhaps, if Kuppin** 
had been with anybody else, she might have been lightened 
for Kuppins had a confused idea that snch appearances as high- 
waymen and ghosts are common to the vesper hour ; but in the 
company of Mr. Peters, Kuppins would have fearlessly met a 
regiment of highwaymen, or a chia^chyard fuU of ghosts: for 
was he not the law and the police in person, under whose shadow 
there could be no fear ? 

Mr. Yorkins's trap was fast craining on the sinking sun, when 
Mr. Peters drew up, and paused nresolutely between two roads. 
These diverging roads met at a point a Httle further on, and 
the Sunday afternoon pleasure-seekers crossing the heath took 
sometimes one, sometimes the other ; but the road to the left 
was the least frequented, being the narrower and more hilly, 
and this road Mr. Peters took, still driving towards the dark 
line behind which the red sun w<s going down. 

The broken ground of fb? aeath was all a-glow with the 
warm crimson light ; a dissipated skylark and an early nightin- 
gale were singing a duet, to which the grasshoppers seemed to 
listen with suspended chirpings ; a frog of an apparently tretM. 
disposition was keeping up a captioxia eioak ya. ^. ^asA^Vj *C^^ 
fido of the road; and oeyond tlMae '^oice?^ \)cict% ^acax^^a"^ 



I 



88 The Trail of the Serpent 

no Bound beneath the sky. The peaceful landscape and the 
tranquil evening shed a beni^ influence upon Kuppins, and 
awakened the dormant poetry m that young lady's breast. 

" Lor*, Mr. Peters," she said, " it's hard to think in such a 
place as this, that gents of your purfession should be wanted. 
I do think now, if I was ever led to feel to want to take and 
murder somebody, which I hopes ain*t likely — ^knowin* my duty 
to my neighbour better — I do think, somehow, this evening 
would come back to my mind, and I should hear them birds 
a-singing, and see that there sun a-sinking, till I shouldn't 
be able to do it, somehow." 

Mr. Peters shakes his head dubiously: he is a benevolent 
man and a philanthropist; but he doesn't like his profession 
run down, and a murder and bread-and-cheese aiie inseparable 
things in his mind. 

" And, do you know," continued Kuppins, " it seems to me 
as if, when tnis world is so beautiful and quiet, it's quite hard 
to think there's one wicked person in it to cast a snadow on 
its peace." 

As Kuppins said this, she and Mr. Peters were startled by a 
shadow which came between them and the sinking sun — a 
distorted shadow throvm. across the narrow road from the sharp 
outline of the figure of a man lying upon a hillock a little way 
above them. !Now, there is not much to alarm the most timid 
person in the sight of a man asleep upon a summer's evening 
among heath and wild flowers; but something in this man's 
appearance startled Kuppins, who drew nearer to Mr. Peters, 
and held the "fondling," now fast asleep and muffled in a 
shawl, closer to her bosom. The man was lying on his back, 
with his face upturned to the evening sky, and his arms 
straight down at his sides. The sound of the wheels of Mr. 
Vorkins's trap did not awaken him ; and even when Mr. Peters 
drew up with a sudden jerk, the sleeping man did not raise his 
head. Now, I don't know why Mr. Peters should stop, or 
why either he or Kuppins should feel any curiosity about this 
sleeping man ; but they certainly did feel considerable curiosity. 
He was dressed rather shabbily, but still like a gentleman ; and 
it was perhaps a strange thing for a gentleman to be sleeping 
BO soundly in such a lonely spot as this. Then again, there was 
something in his attitude — a want of ease, a certain stiffness, 
which had a strange effect upon both Kuppins and Mr. Peters 

" I wish he'd move," said feippins ; " he looks so awful quiei, 
lying there all so lonesome." 

" Call to him, my girl," said Mr. Peters with his fingers. 

Kuppins essayed a loud "Hilloa," but it was a dismal 

failure, on which Mr. Peters gave a long shrill whistle, which 

wast Bnrely have disturbed the peaQ^fm dreams of the seven 



The Quiet Mgwe on the Heath. 89 

sleepers, though it miglit not have awakened them. The man 
on the hillock never stirred. The pony, taking advantage of 
the halt, drew nearer to the heath and began to crop the short 
grass by the road-side, thns bringing Mr. Yorkins's trap a 
little nearer the sleeper. 

"Get down, lass," said the fingers of the detective; "get 
down, my lass, and have a look at him, for I can't leave this 
'ere pony." 

Knppms looked at Mr. Peters; and Mr. Peters looked at 
Kuppms, as much as to say, " Well, what then P " So Kuppins 
to whom the laws of the Medes and Persians wonld have been 
mild compared to the word of Mr. Peters, surrendered the 
infant to nis care, and descending from the trap, mounted the 
hillock, and looked at the still reclining figure. 

She did not look long, but returning rapidly to Mr. Peters, 
took hold of his arm, and said — 

" I don't think he's asleep — leastwajs, his eyes is open ; but 
he don't look as if he could see anything, somehow. He's got 
a little bottle in his hand." 

Why Kuppins should keep so tight a hold on Mr. Peters's 
arm while sne said this it is difficult to tell ; but she did clutch 
his coat-sleeve very tightly, looking back while she spoke with 
her white face turned towards that whiter face under the 
evening sky. 

Mr. Peters jumped quickly from the trap, tied the elderly 
^my to a farze-bush, mounted the hillock, and proceeded to 
mspect the sleeping figure. The pale set face, and the fixed 
blue eyes, looked up at the crimson light melting into the 
purple shadows of the evening sky, but never more would 
eartW sunlight or shadow, or ni^ht or morning, or storm or 
calm, be of any account to that quiet figure lying on the heath. 
Why the man was there, or how ne had come there, was a part 
of the great mystery under the darkness of which he lay ; and 
that mystery was Death ! He had died apparently by poison 
administered by his ovm. hand; for on the grass by his side 
there was a little empty bottle labelled " Opium," on which his 
fingers lay, not clasping it, but lying as if they had fallen over 
it. His clothes were soak^ througn with wet, so that he must 
fai all probability have lain in that place through the storm of 
the previous night. A silver watch wasHn the pocket of his 
waistcoat, which Mr. Peters found, on looking at it, to have 
stopped at ten o'clock — ^ten o'clock of the night before, most 
likely. His hat had fallen off, and lay at a httle distance, and 
his curUng light hair hung in wet ringlets over his high fore- 
head. His face was handsome, the features well chiselled, but 
the cheeks were svinken and hollow, making tla^W^^i'^JeQA ^"^v^ 
leeio larger. 



I 



90 The Trail of the Serpent. 

* 

Mr. PeierB, iu examining the pockets of the suicide, found no 
clue to his identity ; a handkerchief, a little silver, a few half- 
pence, a penknife wrapped in a leaf torn out of a Latin 
Grammar, were the sole contents. 

The detective reflected for a few moments, with his mouth 
on one side, and then, mounting the highest hillock near, looked 
over the surrounding country. He presently descried a group 
of haymakers at a little distance, whom he si^alled with a 
loud whistle. To them, through Kuppins as interpreter, he 
gave his directions ; and two of the tallest and strongest of the 
men took the body by the head and feet and carried it between 
them, with Kuppins s shawl spread over the still white face, 
rhey were two miles from Slopperton, and those two miles 
were by no means pleasant to Kuppins, seated in Mr. Yorkins's 
trap, which Mr. Peters drove slowly, so as to keep pace with 
the two men and their ghastly burden. Kuppins's shawl, which 
cf course would never be any use as a snawl again, was no 
good to conceal the sharp outline of the face it covered; for 
Kuppins had seen those blue eyes, and once to see was always 
to see them as she thought. The dreary journey came at last 
to a dreary end at the police-office, where the men deposited 
their dreadful load, and being paid for their trouble, departed 
rejoicing. Mr. Peters was busy enough for the next half-hour 
giving an account of the finding of the body, and issuing hand- 
biUs of " Found dead, &c." 

Kuppins and the "fondling" returned to Little Gulliver 
Street, and if ever there had been a heroine in that street, that 
heroine was Kuppins. People came from three streets off to 
see her, and to hear the story, which she told so often that she 
came at last to tell it mechanically, and to render it slightly 
obscure by the vagueness of her punctuation. Anything in 
the way of supper that Kuppins would accept, and two or three 
dozen suppers if Kuppins would condescend to partake of them, 
were at Kuppins's service ; and her reign as heroine-in-chief oi 
this dark romance in real life was only put an end to by the 
appearance of Mr. Peters, the hero, who came home by-and-by, 
hot and dusty, to announce to the world of Little Gulliver 
Street, by means of the alphabet, very grimy after his exertions, 
that the dead man had been recognized as the principal usher 
of a great school up at the other end of the town, and that his 
name was, or had been, Jabez North. His motive for committing 
suicide he had carried a secret with him into the dark and 
mysterious region to which he was a voluntary traveller ; and 
Mr. Peters, whose business it was to pry about the confines of 
this shadowy land, though powerless to penetrate the interior, 
conld only discover some faint rumour of an ambitious love for 
Jkiff zuaster's daughter as being the caua© oi VSclq lOTjai^TjaLer** 



The Usher resigns Ms Situation. 91 

antiinei/ end. What secrets this dead man had carried with 
him into the shadow-land, who shall sav? There might be 
one, perhaps, which even Mr. Peters, with his utmost acntenesa, 
could not discover. 



CHAPTER yn. 

THE USHER RESIGNS HIS SITUATION. 

On the very day on which Mr. Peters treated Kuppins and the 
" fondling" to tea and watercresses. Dr. Tappenden and Jane 
his daughter returned to their household gods at Slopperton. 

"Who shall describe the ceremony and bustle with which that 
great dignitary, the master of the house, was received? He 
had announced his return by the train which reached Slop- 
perton at seven o'clock ; so at that hour a well-furnished tea- 
table was ready laid in the study — ^that terrible apartment 
which Httle boys entered with red eyes and pafe cheeks, emerg- 
ing therefrom in a pleasant glow, engendered by a specific 
pecuHar to schoolmasters whose desire it is not to spoil the 
child. But no ghosts of bygone canings, no infantine whimpers 
from shadow-land — (thougn little Allecompain, dead and gone, 
had received correction in this very room) — haunted the 
Doctor's sanctorum — a cheerful apartment, warm in winter, and 
cool in summer, and handsomely furnished at aU times. Tl>^ 
silver teapot reflected the evening sunshine ; and reflected to*j 
Sarah Jane laying the table, none the handsomer for beiug 
represented upside down, with a tendency to become collapsed 
or elongated, as she hovered about the tea-tray. Anchovy- 
paste, pound-cake, Scotch marmalade and fancy bread, all 
seemed to cry aloud for the arrival of the doctor and his 
daughter to demolish them ; but for all that there was fear in 
the hearts of the household as the hour for that arrival drew 
near. What would he say to the absence of his factotum P 
Who should teU him? Every one was innocent enough, cer- 
tainly; but in the first moment of his fury might not the 
descending avalanche of the Doctor's wrath crush the innocent P 
Miss Smithers — who, as well as being presiding divinity of the 
young gentlemen's wardrobes, was keeper of the keys of divers 
presses and cupboards, and had sundiy awful trusts connected 
with tea and sugar and butchers' bills — was elected by the 
«^hole household, from the cook to the knife-boy, as the proper 
person to make the awful announcement of the unaccountable 
disappearance of Mr. Jabez North. So, when the doctor and 
his daughter had ahffhted from the fly which brought them and 
their luggage from the station, Miss Smithers hovered, tissii^k:^ 
about them, on the watch for a propitioTxa xEioixifirD^. 

Howb&ye you enjoyed youxadf, icia^^ 5\x^^5ai?,\s^ ^^"^ 



it 



92 The Trail of the Serpent. 

looks I ahonld say very much indeed, for never did I see yon 
looking better," said Miss Smithers, with more enthusiasm than 
punctuation, as she removed the shawl from the lovely shoulden 
of Miss Tappenden. 

" Thank you, Smithers, I am better," replied the young lady, 
with languid condescension. Miss Tappenden, on the strength 
of never having anything the matter with her, was always com- 
plaining, and passed her existence in taking sal-vdlatile and red 
lavender, and reading three, volumes a day &om the circulating 
library. 

"^d how," asked the ponderous voice of the ponderous 
Doctor, "how is everything going on, Smithers P" By this time 
ihey were seated at the tea-taUe, and the learned Tappenden 
was in the act of putting five lumps of sugar in his cup, while 
ihe fair Smithers Imgered in attendance. 

" Quite satisfactory, sir, I'm sure," repHed that young lady, 
growmg very much confused. " Evefytning quite satislactory, 
sir; leastways " 

"What do you mean by teastwa/ya, Smithers P" asked the 
Doctor, impatiently. " In the first place it isn't English ; and 
in the next it sounds as if it meant something unpleasant. For 
goodness sake, Smithers, be straightforward and business-Hke. 
Bias anjrthing gone wrong P What is it ? And why wasn't I 
informed of it ? 

Smithers, in despair at her incapability of answering these 
three questions at once, as no doubt she ought to have been able 
to do, or the Doctor would not have asked them, stammered 
out, — 

" Mr. North, sir " 

"'Mr. North, sir'! WeU, what of 'Mr. North, sir'P" By 
the bye, where is Mr. North P Why isn't he here to receive 
us?" 

Smithers feels that she is in for it; so, after two or throe 
nervous gulps, and other convulsive movements of the throat, 
she continues thus — " Mr. North, sir, didn't come home last 
night, sir. We sat up for him till one o'clock this morning — 
last night, sir." 

The rising storm in the Doctor's face is mab'ng Smithers's 
English more ttn-English every moment. 

" Didn't come last night ? Didn't return to my house at the 
hour of ten, which hour has been appointed by me for the 
retiring to rest of every person in my employment?" cried tlie 
Doctor, aghast. 

" No, sir ! Nor yet this morning, sir ! Nor yet this after- 
noon, sir ! And the West-Indian pupils have been looking out 
oi the window, sir, and would, which we told them not tiU we 
were hoarse, sir,** 



The TTsher resigns his Situation. 93 

•'The person intrusted by me with the care of my papila 
abandoning his post, and my pupils looking out of the window!" 
exclaimed Dr. Tappenden, in the tone of a man who says — 
" The glory of England hsLS departed ! You wouldn't, pernaps, 
believe it ; but it has !" 

" "We didn't know what to do, sir, and so we thought we'd 
better not do it," continued the bewildered Smithers. "And 
we thought as you was coming back to-day, we'd better leave it 
till you did come back — and please, sir, will you take any new- 
laid eggs P" 

"Eggs!" said the Doctor; "new-laid eggs! Go away, 
Smithers. There must be some steps taken immediately. 
That young man was my right hand, and I would have trusted 
him with untold gold ; or," ne added, " with my cheque-book." 

As he uttered the words "cheque-book," he, as it were in- 
stinctively, laid his hand upon the pocket which contained that 
precious volume ; but as he did so, he remembered that he had 
used the last leaf but one when writing a cheque for a mid- 
summer butcher's bill, and that he had a &esh book in his desk 
untouched. This desk was always kept in the study, and the 
Doctor gave an involuntary glance in the direction in which it 
stood. 

It was a very handsome piece of furniture, ponderous, like 
the Doctor himself; a magnificent construction of shimng 
walnut-wood and dark green morocco, with a recess for the 
Doctor's knees, and on either side of this recess two rows of 
drawers, with brass handles and Bramah locks. The centre 
drawer on the left hand side contained an inner and secret 
drawer, and towards the lock of this drawer the Doctor looked, 
for this contained his new cheque-book. The walnut-wood 
round the lock of this centre drawer seemed a little chipped ; 
the Doctor thought he might as well get up and look at it ; and 
a nearer examination showed the brass handle to be slightly 
twisted, as if a powerful hand had wrenched it out of shape. 
The Doctor, taking hold of the handle to pull it straight, drew 
the drawer out, and scattered its contents upon the floor ; also 
the contents of the inner drawer, and amongst them the cheque- 
book, half-a-dozen leaves of which had been torn out. 

" So," said the Doctor, " this man, whom I trusted, has broken 
open my desk, and finding no money, he has taken blank 
cheques, in the hope of being able to forge my name. To think 
that I did not know this man !" 

To think that you did not. Doctor ; to think, too, that you do 
not even now, perhaps, know half this man may have been 
capable of. 

But it was time for action, not TefLeCit\OTv\ ^» ^^ X^ociJwst 
hurried to the railway station, and tdegta^'e.i \,o\3^^\3as^^^'^ 



94 The Trail of tie Serpent 

in London to stop any cheques presented in his signatnre, and 
to have the person presenting snch cheques immediately 
arrested. From the railway station he hurried, in an undignified 
perspiration, to the poHce-office, to institute a search for the 
missmg Jabez, and then returned home, striking terror into the 
hearts of his household, ay, even to the soul of his daughter, 
the lovely Jane, who took an extra dose of sal-volatile, and 
went to bed to read " Lady Olarinda, or the Heart-breaks of 
Belgravia." 

With the deepening twilight came a telegraphic message from 
the bank to say that cheques for divers sums had been pre- 
sented and cashed by different people in the course of the day. 
On the heels of this message came another from the police- 
station, announcing that a body had been found upon Halford 
Heath answering to the description of the missing man. 

The bewildered schoolmaster, hastening to the station, re- 
cognises, at a glance, the features of his late assistant. The 
contents of the dead man's pocket, the empty bottle with the 
too significant label, are fthown him. No, some other hand 
than the usher's must have broken open the desk in the study, 
and the unfortunate young man's reputation had been involved 
in a strange coincidence. But the motive for his rash act ? 
That is explained by a most affecting letter in the dead man's 
hand, which is found in his desk. It is addressed to the 
Doctor, expresses heartfelt gratitude for that worthy gentleman's 

East kindnesses, and hints darkly at a hoj)eless attachment to 
is daughter, which renders the writer's existence a burden too 
heavy for him to bear. For the rest, Jabez North has paseoi 
a threshold, over which the boldest aud most inquisitive scarcely 
care to follow him. So he takes his own Httle mystery with 
him into the land of the great mystery. 

There is, of course, an inquest, at which two different chemists, 
who sold laudanum to Jabez North on the night before his dis- 
appearance, give their evidence. There is another chemist, who 
deposes to having sold him, a day or two before, a bottle of 
patent hair-dye, which is also a poisonous compound; but 
surely he never could have thought of poisoning himself with 
hair-dye. 

The London police are at fault in tracing the presenters of 
the cheques ; and the proprietors of the bank, or the clerks, who 
maintain a common fund to provide against their own errors, 
are likely to be considerable losers. In the mean while the 
worthy Doctor announces, by advertisements in the Slopperton 
Dapers, that '* his pupils assemble on the 27th of July." 



HOLT INSTITUTION. 



CHAPTER L 

THE VALUE OF AN OPERA-GLASS. 

Paris ! — City of fasliion, pleasure, beanty, wealtli, ran^, talent^ 
and indeed all the glories of the earth. City of palaces, ia 
which La Yalli^re smiled, and Scarron sneered; under whose 
roofs the echoes of Bossuet*s voice have resounded, while folly, 
coming to be amused, has gone away in tears, only to for^cu 
to-morrow what it has heard to-night. Glorious city, in which 
a bon mot is more famous than a good action ; which is richer 
in the records of Ninon de Lenclos than in those of Joan of 
Arc ; for which Beaumarchais wrote, andMarmontel moralised.; 
which Scottish John Law infected with a furious madness, in 
those halcyon days when jolly, good-tempered, accomplished, 
easy-going Philippe of Orleans held the rems of power. Paris, 
which young Arouet, afterwards Yoltaire, ruled with the distant 
jingle of hi^ jester's wand, from the far retreat of Femey. Paris, 
m which Madame du Deffand dragged out those weary, brilliant, 
dismal, salon-keeping years, quarrelling with Mademoiselle de 
I'Espinasse, and corresponding with Horace Walpole; ce cher 
Horace, who described those brilliant French ladies as women 
who neglected all the duties of life, and gave very pretty 
suppers. 

Paris, in which Bailly spoke, and Madame Eoland dreamed ; 
in which Marie Antoinette despaired, and gentle Princess 
Elizabeth laid down her saintly life; in which the son of St. 
Louis went calmly to the red mouth of that terrible machine 
invented by the charitable doctor who thought to benefit hia 
fellow creatures. City, under whose roofs bilious Eobespierre 
suspected and feared; beneath whose shadow the glorious 
twenty-two went hand in hand to death, with the psalm of 
freedom swelling from their lips. Paris, which rejoiced when 
Marengo was won, and rang joy-bells for the victories of Lodd 
Areola, Austerlitz, Anerstadt, and Jena; ru^d^t ^\i\^X\s^Q<^rQ£!^ 



96 The Trail of the Serpent 

over fatal Waterloo, and opened its arms, after weary years of 
waiting, to take to its heart only the ashes of the ruler of its 
election; Pans, the marvellous; Paris, the beautiful, whose 
streets are streets of palaces — fairy wonders of opulence and 
art ; — can it be that under some of thy myriad roofs there are 
ffuch incidental trifles as misery, starvation, vice, crime, and 
death P Nay, we will not push the question, but enter at once 
into one of the most brilliant of the temples of that goddess 
whose names are Pleasure, Fashion, Folly, and Idleness : and 
lehat more splendid shrine can wo choose whereat to worship 
the divinity called Pleasure than the Italian Opera House P 

To-night the house is thronged with fashion and beauty. 
B i^ht unilorms glitter in the backgrounds of the boxes, and 
Bprmkle the crowded parterre. The Citizen King is there — not 
King of France; no such poor title will he have, but King of 
the French. His throne is oased, not on the broad land, but on 
theliving hearts of his people. May it never prove to be built 
on a shallow foundation ! In eighteen hundred and foi-ty-two 
all is well for Louis PhiHppe and his happy family. 

In the front row of the Italk. close to tie orchestra, a young 
man lounges, with his opera-glass in his hand. He is handsome 
and very elegant, and is dressed in the most perfect taste and 
the highest fashion. Dark curling hair clusters round his deli- 
cately white forehead ; his eyes are of a bright blue, shaded by 
auburn lashes, which contrast rather strangely with his dart 
hair. A very dark and thick moustache only reveals now and 
then his thin lower lip and a set of dazzling white teeth. Hi» 
nose is a delicate aquiline, and his features altogether bear the 
Btamp of aristocracy. He is quite alone, this elegant lounger, 
and of the crowd of people of rank and fashion around him not 
one turns to speak to him. His listless white hand is thrown on 
the cushion of the stall on which he leans, as he glances round 
the house with one indifferent sweep of his opera-glass. Pre- 
sently his attention is arrested by the conversation of two 
gentlemen close to him, and without seeming to listen, he hears 
what they are saying. 

" Is the Spanish princess here to-night ?" asks one. 

** What, tne marquis*s niece, the girl who has that immense 
property in Spanish America P Yes, she is in the box next to 
the king's ; don't you see her diamonds P They,and her eyes are 
Drilliant enough to set the curtains of the box on fire." 

" She is immensely rich, then ?" 

"She is an Eldorado. The Marquis de Cevennes has no 
children, and all his property wiU go to her ; her Spanish Ameri- 
can property comes irom her mother. She is an orphan, as you 
know, and the maixiuis is her guardian." 
^Sbe ia liandsome; but there's ]ust a little too much of the 



The Value of an Opera-glass, 97 

demon in those gi'eat almond-shaped black eyes and that small 
determined month. What a fortnpe she would be to some 
intriguing adventurer !" 

" An aSventurer ! Yalerie de Cevennes the prize of an adven- 
turer ! Show me the man capable of winning ner, without rank 
and fortune equal to hers ; and I will say you have found the 
eiofhth wonder of the world." 

The listener's eyes light up with a strange flash, and Hfting 
his glass, he looks for a few moments carelessly round the house, 
and then fixes his gaze upon the box next to that occupied by 
the royal party. 

The Spanish beauty is indeed a glorious creature ; of a loveli- 
ness rich alike in form and colour, but with hauteur and deter- 
mination expressed in every feature of her face. A man of some 
fifty years of age is seated by her side, and behind her chair two 
or tluree gentlemen stand, the breasts of whose coats glitter with 
stars and orders. They are speaking to her ; but she pays very 
little attention to them. If she answers, it is only by a word, 
or a bend of her proud head, which she does not turn towards 
them. She never takes her eyes from the curtain, which pre- 
sently rises. The opera is La Sormcmibula, The Elvino is the 
ereat singer of the day — a young man whose glorious voice and 
handsome face have made him the rage of the musical world. 
Of his origin different stories are told. Some say he was 
originally a shoemaker, others- declare him to be the son of a 
prmce. He has, however, made his fortune at seven-and- 
twenty, and can afford to laugh at these stories. The opera 
proceeds, and the powerful glass of the lounger in the stalls 
records the minutest change in the face of Yalerie de Cevennes. 
It records one faint quiver, and then a firmer compression of the 
thin lips, when the Elvino appears ; and the eyes of the lounger 
fasten more intently, if possible, than before upon the face of 
the Spanish beauty. 

Presently Elvino sings the grand burst of passionate reproach, 
in which he upbraids Amina's fancied falsehood. As the house 
applauds at the close of the scene, Valerie's bouquet falls at the 
feet of the Amina. Elvino, taking it in his hand, presents it to 
the lady, and as he does so, the lounger's glass — which, more 
rapidly than the bouquet has fallen, has turned to the stage- 
records a movement so quick as to be almost a feat of legerde- 
main. The great tenor has taken a note from the bouquet. 
The lounger sees the triumphant glance towards the box next 
the king's, though it is rapid as hghtning. He sees the tiny 
morsel of ghstening paper crumpled in the singer's hand; and 
after one last contemplative look at the proud brow and set lipa 
of Yalerie de Cevennes, he lowers the glass. 

"My glass is wel) wor^h the fifteen g\ivne«ia\^«K^^at'S!^i^ '^Mk 



93 The Trail of ihe SerpenL 

whispers to himself. " That girl can command her eyes ; they 
have not one traitorous flash. But those thin Hps cannot keep 
a secret firom a man with a decent amount of brams." 

When the opera is over, the lounger of the stalls leaves his 
place by the orchestra, and loiters in the winter night outside 
the stage-door. Perhaps he is enamoured of some lovely coryphee 
— lovely in all the gorgeousness of flake white and liquid rouge ; 
and yet that can scarcely be, or he would be still in the stalls, or 
hovering about the side-scenes, for the ballet is not over. Two 
or three carriages, belonging to the principal singers, are waiting 
at the stage-door. Presently a tau, stylish-looking man, in a 
loose over-coat, emerges; a groom opens the door of a well- 
appointed little brougham, but the gentleman says — 

"No, Far^e, you can go home. I shall walk." 

"But, monsieur," remonstrates the man, "monsieur is not 
aware that it rains." 

Monsieur says he is quite aware of the rain ; but that he has 
an umbrella, and prefers walking. So the brougham drives off 
with the distressed Farde, who consoles himself at a cafe high 
up on the boulevard, where he plays ecarte with a limp little 
pack of cards, and drinks effervescing lemonade. 

The lounger of the stalls, standing in the shadow, hears this 
little dialogue, and sees also, by the light of the carriage-lamps, 
that the gentleman in the loose coat is no less a personage than 
the hero of the opera. The lounger also seems to be indifferent 
to the rain, and to have a fancy for walking; for when Elvino 
crosses the road and turns into an opposite street, the lounger 
follows. It is a dark night, with a little drizzling rain — a night 
by no means calculated to tempt an elegantly-dressed young man 
to brave all the disagreeables and peri£ of dirty pavements and 
overflowing gutters ; but neither Elvino nor the lounger seem to 
care for mud or rain, for they walk at a rapid pace through 
ijeveral streets — ^the lounger always a good way behind and 
always in the shadow. He has a light step, which wakes no 
echo on the wet pavement ; and the fashionable tenor has no 
idea that he is followed. He walks through long narrow streets 
to the Eue Eivoli, thence across one of the bridges. Presently 
he enters a very aristocratic but retired street, in a lonely quar- 
ter of the city. The distant roll of carriages and the tramp of 
a passing gendarme^ are the only sounds that break the silence. 
There is not a creature to be seen in the wide street but the two 
men. Elvino turns to look about him, sees no one, and walks 
on till he comes to a mansion at the comer, screened from thd 
street by a high wall, with g eat gates and a porter's lodge. 
Detached from the house, and sheltered by an angle of the wall, 
is a little pavilion^ the windows of which look into the courtyard 
9or garden withm, Clcse to this pavilion is a narrow low door 



Wbrkmg in the Dark. 99 

of carved oak, studded with great iron nails, and almost hidden 
in the heavy masonry of the wall which frames it. The house 
in early times has been a convent, and is now the property of 
the Marquis de Cevennes. Elvino, with one more glance up and 
down tiie dimly-Hghted street, approaches this doorway, and 
stooping down to the key-hole whistles softly three bars of a 
melody from Don Giovanni — La ci da^em la mano, 

" So ! '* says the lounger, standing in the shadow of a house 
opjDOsite, " we are getting deeper into the mystery; the curtain 
is up, and the play is going to begin." 

As the clocks of Paris chime the half-hour after eleven the 

little door turns on its hinges, and a faint Hght in the courtyard 

within falls upon the f gure of the fashionable tenor. This light 

comes from a lamp in the hand of a pretty-looking, smartly- 

. dressed girl, who has opened the door. 

" She IS not the woman I took her for, this Valerie," says the 
lounger, "or she would have opened that door herself. She 
makes her waiting-maid her confidante — a false step, which 
proves her either stupid or inexperienced. Not stupid; her 
face gives the lie to tiiat. Inexperienced then. So much the 
better." 

As the spy meditates thus, Elvino masses through the 
doorway, stooping as he crosses the threshold, and the light 
disappears. 

"This is either a private marriage, or something worse," 
mutters the lounger. " Scarcely the last. Hers is the face of 
a woman capable of a madness, but not of degradation — the 
face of a Phasdra rather than a Messalina. I have seen enough 
of the play for to-night." 

OHAPTEE n. 

WORKING IN THE DARK. 

EiULT the next morning a gentleman rings the l^ell of the 
porter's lodge belonging to the mansion of the Marquis de 
Cevennes, and on seeing the porter addresses him thus — 

"The lady's-maid of Mademoiselle Valerie de Cevennes if 
perhaps visible at this early hour?" 

The porter thinks not; it is very early, only eight o'clock; 
Mademoiselle Finette never appears till nine. The toilette oi 
her mistress is generally concluded by twelve; after twelve, 
the porter thinks monsieur may succeed in seeing Mademoiselle 
Finette — ^before twelve, he thinks not. 

The stranger rewards the porter with a five-franc piece for 
this valuable information ; it is very valuable to the stranger, 
who is the lounger of the last night, to discover that the name 
of the girl who held the lamp is Finettd* 



100 The Trail of tlie Serpent 

The lounger seems to have as little to do this morning as he 
had last night ; for he leans against the gateway, his cane in hia 
hand, and a half-smoked cigar in his mouth, looking up at the 
house of the marquis with lazy indifference. 

The porter, conciliated by the five-franc piece, is inclined to 
gossip. 

" A fine old building," says the lounger, still looking up at 
the house, every window of which is shrouded by ponderous 
Venetian shutters. 

" Yes, a fine old building. It has beeij in the family of the 
marquis for two hundred years, but was sadly mutilated in the 
first revolution; monsieur may see the work of the cannon 
amongst the stone decorations." 

"And that pavillion to the left, with the painted windows 
and Gothic decorations — a most extraordinary little edifice," 
says the lounger. 

xes, monsieur has observed itP It is a great deal more 
modem than the house; was built so lately as the reign of 
Louis the Fifteenth, by a dissipated old marquis who gave 
supper-parties at which the guests used to pour champapie out 
of tne windows, and pelt the servants in the courtyard with the 
empty bottles. It is certainly a curious little place ; but would 
monsieur believe something more curious P 

Monsieur declares that he is quite willing to believe anything 
the porter may be good enough to tell him. He says this with 
a well-bred indifference, as he Hghts a fresh cigar, which is quite 
aristocratic, and which might stamp him a scion of the noble 
house of De Cevennes itself. 

"Tlitti," replies the porter, "monsieur must know that 
Mademoiselle valerie, the proud, the high-bom, the beautiful, 
has lately taken it into her aristocratic head to occupy that 
pavihon, attended only by her maid Finette, in preference to 
ner magnificent apartments, which monsieur may see yonder on 
the first floor of the mansion— a range of ten windows. Does 
not monsieur think this very extraordmary ? " 

Scarcely. Young ladies have strange whims. Monsieur 
never allows himself to be surprised by a woman's conduct, 
or he might pass his Hfe in a state of continual astonishment. 

The porter perfectly agrees with monsieur. The porter is a 

married man, "and, monsieur ^P" the porter ventures to 

ask with a shrug of interrogation. 

Monseiur says he is not married yet. 

Something in monsieur's maimer emboldens the porter 

" But monsieur is perhaps contemplating a marriage P " 
Monsieur takes his cigar from his mouth, raises his blue eyes 
fo the level of the range of ten windows, indicated just now by 



Workinff in the Dark. 101 

ibe porter, takes one long and meditative survey of the magni- 
ficent mansion opposite him, and then replies, with aristocratia 
indifference — 

" Perhaps. These Cevennes are immensely rich ?" 

" Immensely ! To the amount of millions." The porter is 
prone to extravagant gesticulation, but ke cannot lifb either his 
evebrows or his shoulders high enough to express the extent of 
the wealth of the De Cevennes. 

The lounffer takes out his pocket-book, writes a few lines, am? 
tearing the leaf out, gives it to the porter, saying — 

"You will favour me, my good firiend, by giving this to 
Mademoiselle Finette at your earliest convemence. You were 
not always a married man ; and can therefore understand that 
it will be as well to deliver my little note secretly." 

Nothing can exceed the intense significance of the porter's 
wink as he takes charge of the note. The lounger nods an 
indifferent good-day, and strolls away. 

" A marquis at the least," says the porter. " 0, Mademoi- 
selle Finette, you do not wear black satin gowns and a gold 
watch and cham for nothing." 

The lounger is ubiquitous, this winter's day. At three 
o'clock in the afternoon he is seated on a bench in the gardens 
of the Luxembourg, smoking a cigar. He is dressed as before, 
in the last Parisian fashion ; but his greatcoat is a little open 
at the throat, displaying a loosely-tied cravat of a peculiarly 
bright blue. 

A young person of the genus lady's-maid, tripping daintily 
by, is apparently attracted by this blue cravat, for she hoverg 
^bout the bench for a few moments and then seats herself at 
the extreme end of it, as far as possible from the indifferent 
lounger, who has not once noticed her by so much as one glance 
of his cold blue eyes. 

His cigar is nearly finished, so he waits till it is quite done; 
then, throwing away the stump, he says, scarcely looking at 
his neighbour — 

" Mademoiselle Finette, I presume ?" 

" The same, monsieur." 

" Then perhaps, mademoiselle, as you have condescended to 
favour me with an interview, and as the business on which I 
have to address you is of a strictly private nature, you will 
also condescend to come a little nearer to me ?" 

He says this without appearing to look at her, while he 
lights another cigar. He is evidently a desperate smoker, and 
caresses his cigar, looking at the red light and blue smoke 
almost as if it were his familiar spirit, by whose aid he could 
work out wonderful calculations in the bW^ «c£\., ^T^'SRSfiassvs^k 
which be would perhaps be powerless. ^"aA^biEic^^"^^ "^^sjksS^^ 



102 2%<3 Trail of tie Serpent. 

looks at him witli a ^eat deal of surprise and not a little 

indignation, but obeys him, nevertheless, and seats herself close 
by his side. 

" I trust monsieur will believe that I should never have con- 
sented to afford him this interview, had I not been assured — " 

" Monsieur will spare you, mademoiselle, the trouble of 
telling him why you come here, since it is enough for him that 
you are here. I have nothing to do, mademoiselle, either with 
your motives or your scruples. I told you in my note that I 
requirtd you to do me a service, for which I could afford to 
pay you handsomely ; that, on the other hand, if you were 
unwilling to do me this service, I had it in my power to cause 
your dismissal from your situation. Your coming here is a 
tacit declaration of your willingness to serve me. So much 
and no more preface is needed. And now to business.*' 

He seems to sweep this curt preface away, as he waves off 
a cloud of the blue smoke from nis cigar with one motion of 
his small hand. The lady*s-maid, thoroughly subdued by a 
manner which is quite new to her, awaits his pleasure to speak, 
and stares at him with surprised black eyes. 

He is not in a hurry. He seems to be consulting the blue 
smoke prior to committing himself by any further remark. 
He takes his cigar from his mouth, and looks into the bright 
red spot at the lighted end, as if it were the lurid eye of Irs 
famihar demon. After consulting it for a few seconds he says, 
with the same indifference with which he would make some 
obseiTation on the winter's day— 

" So, your mistress. Mademoiselle Yalerie de Cevennes, has 
been so imprudent as to contract a secret marriage with an- 
opera-singer ? " 

He has determined on hazarding his guess. If he is right, it 
is the best and swiftest way of coining at the truth ; if wrong, 
he is no worse off than before. One glance at the girl's face tells 
him he has struck home, and has hit upon the entire truth. He 
is striking in the dark : but he is a mathematician, and can cal* 
culate the effect of every blow. 

"Yes, a secret marriage, of which you were the witness." 
This is his second blow ; and again the girl's face tells him he 
has struck home. 

" Father P^rot has betrayed ns, then, monsieur, for he alone 
could tell you this," said Fmette. 

The lounger understands in a moment that Father P^rot is 
the priest who performed the marriage. Another point in hia 
game. He continues, still stopping now and then to take a 
puff at his cigar, and speaking with an air of complete indiffe* 
fence — 
*^You Bse, then, that this secret marriage, and the part you 



Worhing in ike Barh. 108 

took wifh regard to it, have, no matter whether through the 

worthy priest, Father Perot "(he stops at this point to 

knock the ashes from his cigar, and a sidelong glance at the 
girrs face tells him that he is right again, Father Perot is tho 
priest) — " or some other channel, come to my knowledge. 
Thongh a French woman, yon may be acquainted with flie 
celebrated aphorism of one oi our English neighbours, * Know- 
ledge is power.' Very well, mademoiselle, how if I use my 
power P*' 

" Monsieur means that he can deprive me of my present place, 
and prevent my getting another.'* As she said this, Mademoi- 
selle Finette screwed out of one of her black eyes a small bead of 
water, which was the best thing she could produce in the way of 
a tear, but which, coming into unmediato contact with a sticky 
white compound called pearl-powder, used by the lady*s-maid to 
enhance her personal charms, looked rather more like a digestive 
piU than anythmg else. 

"But, on the other hand, I may not use my power; and, 
indeed, I should deeply regret the painful necessity which would 
compel me to injure a lady." 

Mademoiselle Finette, encouraged by this speech, wiped away 
the digestive pill. 

" Therefore, mademoiselle, the case resolves itself to this : 
serve me, and I will reward you ; refuse to do so, and I can 
injure you." 

A cold ghtter in the blue eyes converts the words into 
a threat, without the aid of any extra emphasis from the 
voice. 

" Monsieur has only to command," answers the lady's-maid ; 
** I am ready to serve him." 

" This Monsieur Elvino will be at the gate of the little pavilion 
to-night P" 

" At a quarter to twelve." 

" Then I will be there at half-past eleven. Yon will admit 
me instead of him. That is all." 

" But my mistress, monsieur : she will discover that I have 
betrayed her, and she will kill me. You do not know Mademoi- 
selle de Cevennes." 

** Pardon me, I think I do know her. She need never learn 
that you have Ijetrayed her. Remember, I have discovered the 
appomted signal ; — you are deceived by my use of that signal, 
and you open the door to the wrong man. For the rest I will 
shield you from all harm. Your mistress is a glorious creature ; 
but perhaps that high spirit may be taught to bend." 

"It must first be broken, monsieur," says Mademoiselle 
Finette. 

** Perhaps,' answers the lounger, Tlamg«ia\i^«ywBiita» ^^'^^^aSi^ 



104 The IS all of the Serpent 

moiselle, cm revoir,** He drops five twinkling pieces of gold into 
her hand, and strolls slowly away. 

The lady's-maid watches the receding figure with a bewildered 
stare. Well may Finette Ldris be puzzled by this man: he 
might mystify wiser heads than hers. As he walks with his 
lounging gaib through the winter sunset, many turn to look at 
his aristocratic figure, fair face, and black hair. If the worst 
man who looked at him could have seen straight through those 
clear blue eyes into his soul, would there have been something 
revealed wmch might have shocked and revolted even this worst 
man ? Perhaps. Treachery is revolting, surely, to the worst of 
ns. The worst of us might shrink appalled from the contempla- 
tion of those hideous secrets which are hidden in the plotting 
brain and the unfiinching heart of the cold-blooded traitor. 



OHAPTEE nL 

THE WEONG POOTSTBP. 

Halt-past eleven from the great booming voice of Notre Dame 
the magnificent. Half-past eleven from every turret in the vast 
city- of Paris. The musical tones of the timepiece over the 
chmmey in the boudoir of the pavilion testify to the fact five 
minutes afterwards. It is an elegant timepiece, surmounted by 
a group from the hand of a fashionable sculptor, a group in 
which a golden Cupid has hushed a grim bronze Saturn to 
sleep, and has hidden the old man's hour-glass under one of his 
lacquered wings — a pretty design enough, though the sand in 
the glass will never move the slower, or wrinkles and gray hairs 
be longer coming, because of the prettiness of that patrician time- 
piece ; for the minute-hand on tine best dial-plate that all Paris 
can produce is not surer in its course than that dark end which 
spares not the brightest bepfinning, that weary awakening which 
awaits the fairest dreanu 

This little apartment in the pavilion belonging to the house of 
the Marquis de Cevennes is furnished in the stjrJe of the Pompa- 
dour days of elegance, luxury, and frivolity. Oval portraits of 
the reigning beauties of that day are let into the panels of the 
walls, and " Louis the Well- beloved" smiles an insipid Bourbon 
fpnile above the mantelpiece. The pencil of Boucher has im- 
mortalized those frail goddesses of the Versailles Olympus, and 
their coquettish lovehness lights the room almost as if they 
were living creatures, smiling unchan^gly on every comer. 
The chimney-piece is of marble, exquisitely carved witn lotuses 
and water-nymphs. A wood fiie bums upon the gilded dogs 
which ornament the hearth. A priceless Persian carpet covers 
\he centre of the polished floor; and a golden Cupid, suspended 



The Wrong Footstep. 105 

from tlie painted ceiKng in an attitude whicli saggosts sacli a 
determination of blood to the head as must idtimately result in 
apoplexy, holds a lamp of alabaster, which floods the room with 
a sofb light. 

Under this light the mistress of the apartment, Yalerie de 
Cevennes, looks ffloriously handsome. She is seated in a low 
arm-chair by the nearth — looking sometimes into the red blaze 
at her feet, with dreamy eyes, whose profoimd gaze, though 
thoughtful, is not sorrowful. This girl has taken a desperate 
step in marrying secretly the man she loves ; but she has no 
re^t, for she does love ; and loss of position seems so small a 
thing in the balance when weighed against this love, which is as 
yet unacquainted with sorrow, that she almost forgets she has 
lost it. Even while her eyes are fixed upon the wood fire at her 
feet, you may see that she is listening ; and when the clocks 
have chimed the half-hour, she turns her head towards the door 
of the apartment, and listens intently. In five minutes she hears 
Bomethmg — a faint sound in the distance, the sound of an outer 
door turning on its hinges. She starts, and her eyes brighten ; 
she glances at the timepiece, and from the timepiece to the 
tiny watch at her side. 

" So soon !** she mutters ; "he said a quarter to twelve. If 
my uncle had been here! And he only left me at eleven 
o'clock !" 

She listens again ; the sounds come nearer — two more doors 
open, and then there are footsteps on the stairs. At the sound 
oi these footsteps she starts again, with a look of anxiety in her 
face. 

" Is he ill," she says, " that he walks so slowly P Hark ! " 

She turns pale and clasps her hands tightly upon her breast. 

" It is not his step ! " 

She knows she is betrayed ; and in that one moment she pre- 
pares herself for the worst. She leans her hand upon the back 
of the chair from which she has risen, and stands, with her 
thin lips firmly set, facing the door. She may be facing her 
fate for aught she knows, but she is ready to face anything. 

The door opens, and the lounger of the morning enters. He 
wears a coat and hat of exactly the same shape and colour as 
those worn by the fashionable tenor, and he resembles the tenor 
in build and height. An easy thing, in the obscurity of the 
night, for the faithful Finette to admit this stranger without 
discovering her mistake. One glance at the face and attitude of 
Valerie de Cevennes tells him that she is not unprepared for his 
appearance. This t^kes him off his guard. Has he, too, been 
betrayed by the lady's-maid ? He never guesses that his light 
step betrayed him to the Hstening ear which love has made so 
acute. He sees that the young and beavx^Wi %\t\\^ ^x^^^«fc^H5^ 



106 Ihe Trail of the Serpeni. 

give him battle. He is disappointed. He had counted upot 
her surprise and confusion, and he feels that he has lost a point 
in his game. She does not speak, but stands quietly waiting 
for him to address her, as she might were he an ordinary visitor. 

" She is a more wonderful woman than I thought," he says 
to himself, " and the battle will be a sharp one. Ko matter I 
The victory will be so much the sweeter." 

He removes his hat, and the light falls full upon his pale fair 
face. Something in that face, she cannot tell what, seems in a 
faint, dim manner, familiar to her — she has seen some one like 
this man, but when, or where, she cannot remember. 

** You are surprised, madame, to see me," he says, for he feels 
that he must begin the attack, and that he must not spare a 
single blow, for he is to fight with one who can parry his thrusts 
and strike again. " You are sxirprised. You command yourself 
admirably in repressing any demonstration of surprise, but you 
are not tne less surprised." 

** I am certainly surprised, monsieur, at receiving any visitor 
at such an hour." She says this with perfect composure. 

" Scarcely, madame," he looks at .the timepiece ; "for in five 
minutes from this your husband will — or should — be here." 

Her lips tighten, and her jaw grows rigid in spite of heiaelf. 
Che secret is known, then — ^known to this stranger, who dares 
U) intrude himself upon her on the strength of this knowledge. 

"Monsieur," she says, "people rarely insult Valerie de Ce- 
^onnes with impunity. You shall hear from my uncle to-morrow 
morning; for to-night — " she lays her hand upon the mother- 
of-pearl handle of a little bell ; he stops her, saying, smilingly, 

"Nay, madame, we are not playing a farce. You wish to 
show me the door ? You would rmg that bell, which no one 
can answer but Finette, your maid, smce there is no one else in 
this charming little establishment. I shall not be afraid of 
Finette, even if you are so imprudent as to summon her ; and I 
shall not leave yon till you have done me the honour of granting 
me an interview. For the rest, I am not talking to Valerie de 
Oevennes, but to Valerie de Lancy ; Valerie, the wife of Elvino; 
Valerie, the lady of Don Giovanni." 

De Lancy is the name of the fashionable tenor. This time 
the haughty girl's thin lips quiver, with a rapid, convulsive 
movement. What stings her proud soul is the contempt with 
which this man speaks of her husband. Is it such a disgrace, 
then, this marriage of wealth, rank, and beauty, with genius 
and art ? 

"Monsieur," she says, "yon have discovered my secret. 1 

have been betrayed either by my servant, or the priest who 

married me — ^no matter which of them is the traitor. You, who, 

iJwOT jroar conduct of to -right, are evidently an adventurer, u 



The Wrong Footstep. 107 

person to whom it would be ntterly vain to apeak of hononr, 
chivalry, and gentlemanly feeling — since they are donbtless 
words of which yon do not even know the meaning — ^yon wish 
to tnm the possession of this secret to acconnt. In other words, 
yon desire to be bonght oflP. You know, then, what I can afford 
to p^ jou. Be good enough to say how much will satisfy you, 
ana I will appoint a time and place at which you shall receive 
your earnings. You will be so kind as to lose no time. It is 
on the stroke of twelve ; in a moment Monsieur De Lancy will 
be here. He may not be disposed to make so good a bargain 
with you as I am. He might be tempted to throw you out of 
the wmdow." 

She has said this with entire self-possession. She might be 
talking to her modiste, so thoroughly indifferent is she m her 
high-bred ease and freezing contempt for the man to whom she 
is speaking. As she finishes she sinks quietly into her easy- 
chair. She takes up a book from a httle table near her, and 
begins to cut the leaves with a jewelled-handled paper-knife. 
But the battle has only just begun, and she does not yet know 
her opponent. 

He watches her for a moment ; marks the steady hand with 
which she slowly cuts leaf after leaf, without once notching tlie 
paper ; and then he deliberately seats himself opposite to her 
in the easy-chair on the other side of the fireplace. She lifts her 
eyes from the book, and looks him full in the face with an ex- 
pression of supreme disdain ; but as she looks, he can see how 
eagerly she is also listening for her husband's step. He has a 
blow to strike which he knows will be a heavy one. 

" Do not, madame," he says, " distract yourself by Hstening 
for your husband's arrival. He will not be here to-night." 

This is a terrible blow. She tries to speak, but her lips only 
move inarticulately. 

"No, he will not be here. You do not suppose, madame, 
that when I contemplated, nay, contrived and arranged an inter- 
view with so chamung a person as yourself, I could possibly be 
so deficient in foresight as to allow that interview to be dis- 
turbed at the expiration of one quarter of an honrP No; 
Monsieur Don Giovanni will not be here to-niffht." 

Again she tries to speak, but the words refuse to come. He 
contmues, as though he interpreted what she wants to say, — 

" You will naturally ask what other engagement detains him 
from his lovely wife's society ? Well, it is, as I think, a supper 
at the Trois Fr&res, As there are ladies invited, the party will 
no doubt break up early ; and you will, I dare sav, see Monsieur 
de Lancjr by four or five o'clock in the morning.'* 

She tnes to resume her employment with the pa^r-kniift^\s^ 
fchisr time she tears the leaves to pieces m\veT «iv^<eaNCpQct^\Ki ^wN. 



lOS The Trail of tie Serpent. 

them. Her anguish and her womanhood get the better of her 
pride and her power of endurance. She crumples the book in 
ner clenched hands, and throws it into the lire. Her visitor 
smiles. His blows are beginning to telL 

For a few minutes there is silence. Presently he takes out 
his cigar-case. 

" I need scarcely ask permission, madame. AU these opera- 
singers smoke, and no doubt you are indulgent to the weakness 
of our dear Elvino ? " 

** Monsieur de Lancy is a gentleman, and would not presume 
to smoke in a lady's presence. Once more, monsieur, be good 
enough to say how much money you require of me to ensure 
your silence? 

"JTay, madame," he replies, as he bends over the wood fire^ 
and Ughts his cigar by the blaze of the burning book, " there is 
no occasion for such desperate haste. You are really surprisingly 
superior to the ordinairy weakness of your sex. Setting apart 
your courage, self-endurance, and determination, which are 
i>ositively wonderful, you are so entirely deficient in curiosity." 

She looks at him with a glance which seems to say she scorns 
to ask him what he means by this. 

" You say your maid, Finette, or the good priest. Monsieur 
Perot, must have betrayed your confidence. Suppose it was 
from neither of those persons I received my information ?" 

" There is no other source, monsieur, from which you could 
obtain it." 

"Nay, madame, reflect. Is there no other person whose 
vanity may have prompted him to reveal this secret ? Do you 
think it, madame, so utterly improbable that Monsieur de Lancy 
himself may have been tempted to boast over his wine of his 
conquest of the heiress of all the De Cevennes ?" 

" It is a base falsehood, monsieur, which you are uttering." 

" Nay, madame, I make no assertion. I am only putting a 
case. Suppose at a supper at the Maison Doree, amongst his 
comrades of the Opera and his admirers of the stalls — to say 
nothing of the coryphees, who, somehow or other, contrive to 
find a place at these recherche little banquets — suppose our 
friend, Don Giovanni, imprudently ventures some allusion to a 
lady of rank and fortune whom his melodious voice or his dark 
eyes have captivated ? This little party is not, perhaps, satis- 
fied with an allusion; it requires facts; it is incredulous; it 
lays heavy odds that Elvino cannot name the lady ; and in the 
end the whole story is told, and the health of Yalerie de 
Cevennes is drunk in Oliquot's finest brand of champagne. 
Suppose this, madame, and you may, perhaps, guess whence I 
got my information." 

Tbrougbont this speech Valerie has sat facing him, with her 



The Wrong Footstep. 109 

eyos &ced in a strange and ghastly stare. Once she lifts her 
hand to her throat, as if to save nerself from choking; and 
when the schemer has finished speaking she sHdes heavify from 
her chair, and falls on her knees npon the Persian hearth-rug, 
with her small hands convnlsively clasped about her heart. 
But she is not insensible, and she never takes her eyes from his 
face. She is a woman who neither weeps nor faints — she 
Buffers. 

" I am here, madame," the lounger continues — and now she 
listens to him eagerlj ; " I am here for two purposes. To help 
myself before all thmgs ; to help you afterwards, if I can. I 
have had to use a rough scalpel, madame, but I may not be an 
xmskilful physician. You love this tenor singer very deeply ; 
you must do so ; since for his sake you were willing to brave 
the contempt of that which you also love very much — ^the world 
— ^the great world in which you move." 

" I did love him, monsieur — God ! how deeply, how madly, 
how blindly ! Nay, it is not to such an eye as yours that I 
woidd rev^ the secrets of my heart and mind. Enough, I 
loved him ! But for the man who could degrade the name of 
the woman who had sacrificed so much for his sake, and hold 
the sacrifice so lightly — for the man who could make thai 
woman's name a jest among the companions of a tavern, 
Valerie de Cevennes has but one sentiment, and that is — con- 
tempt." 

"I admire your spirit, madame; but then, remember, the 
subject can scarcely oe so easily dismissed. A husband is not 
to be shaken off so Hghtly ; and is it likely that Monsieur de 
Lancy will readily resign a marriage which, as a speculation, ip 
80 brilliantly advantageous ? Perhaps you do not know that it 
has been, ever since ms debut, his design to sell his handsome 
face to the highest bidder ; that he has — pardon me, madame — 
been for two years on the look-out for an heiress possessed of 
more gold than discrimination, whom a few pretty namby- 
pamby speeches selected from the librettos of the operas he is 
familiar with would captivate and subdue." 

The haughty spirit is bent to the very dust. This girl, truth 
itself, never for a moment questions the words which are break- 
ing her heart. There is something too painfully probable in 
this bitter humiliation. 

" Oh, what have I done," she cries, "what have I done, that 
the golden dream of my life should be broken by such an 
awakening as this P" 

"Madame, I have told you that I wish, if I can, to help 
you. I pretend no disinterested or Utopian generosity. You 
are rich, and can afford to pay me for my services. There are 
•i^y three persons who, besides youtBe\£, '^etQ ^^nicasKasss?^ ^"^ ^ 



110 le ISrait of the Serpeni. 

eoncemed in this marriage — Father P^rot, Finotte, and Mott* 
Bieur de Lancy. The priest and the maid-servant may be 
silenced; and wr Don Giovanni — ^we will talk of him to-morrow. 
Stay, has he any letters of yours in his possession P" 

"He returns my letters one by one as he receives them,*' 
she mntters. 

** Good — ^it is so easy to retract what one has said ; hfot 00 
difficult to deny one's handwriting." 

" The De Cevennes do not He, monsieur !** 

"Do they notP What, madame, have you acted no lies, 
though you may not have spoken them P Have you never Ued 
with your face, when you have worn a look of calm indifference, 
while the mental effort with which you stopped the violent 
beating of your heart produced a dull physical torture in your 
breast ; when, in the crowded opera-house, you heard his step 
upon the stage P Wasted lies, madame ; wasted torture ; for your 
idol was not worth them. Your god laughed at your worship, 
because he was a false god, and the attributes for which you 
worshipped him — ^truth, Toyaltj, and genius, such as man never 
before possessed — were not his, but the ofTspring of your own 
imagination, with which you invested him, because you were in 
love with his handsome face. Bahl madame, after all, you were 
only the fool of a chiselled profile and a melodious voice. You 
are not the first of your sex so fooled ; Heaven forbid you should 
be the last !" 

" You have shown me why I should hate this man ; show 
me my revenge, if you wish to serve me. My countrywomen 
do not forgive. O Gaston de Lancy, to have been the slave 
of your every word ; the blind idolator of your every glance ; 
to have given so much; and, as my reward, to reap omy your 
contempt !" 

There are no tears in her eyes as she says this in a hoarse 
voice. Perhaps long years hence she may come to weep over 
this wild infatuation — ^now, her despair is too bitter for tears. 

The lounger still preserves the charming indifference which 
stamps him of her own class. He says, in reply to her en- 
treaty, — 

" I can lead you to your revenge, madame, if your noble 
^Spanish blood does not recoil from the ordeal. Dress yourself 
to-morrow night in your servant's clothes, wearing of course a 
thick veil ; take a hackney coach, and at ten o'clock be at the 
entrance to the Bois de Boulogne. I will join you there. You 
shall have your revenge, madame, and I will show you how to 
turn that revenge (which is in itself an expensive luxury) to 
practical account. In a few days you may perhaps be able to 
Bay, ' There is no such person as Gaston do Lancy : the terriblt 
delusion WKH only a dream ; I have awoke, and I am free V " 



Ocular Demonstration. Ill 

She passes her trembling hand across her brow, and looks at 
Ihe speaker, as if she tried in vain to gather the meaning of 
his words. • 

*' At ten o'clock, at the entrance to the Bois de Boulogne P 
I will be there," she mnrmnrs faintly. 

" Grood ! And now, madame, adieu ! I fear I have fatigued 
you by this long interview. Stay ! You should know the 
name of the man to whom you allow the honour of servinpf 
you." 

He takes out his card-case, lays a card on the tiny table at 
her side, bows low to her, and leaves her — ^leaves her stricken 
to the dust. He looks back at her as he opens the door, and 
watches her for a moment, with a smile upon his face. His 
blows have had their full effect. 

Yalerie, Valerie ! loving so wildly, to be so degraded, 
humiliated, deceived! Little wonder that you cry to-night. 
There is no light in the sky — there is do glory in the world 1 
Earth is wearv, heaven is dark, and death alone is the friend 
of the broken heart ! 



CHAPTEB IV. 

OGULAB DEMONSTBATIGK. 

Insckibei) on the card which the lounger leaves on the table of 
Mademoiselle de Gevennes, or Madame de Lancy, is the name of 
Eaymond Marolles. The lounger, then, is Eaymond Marolles, 
and it is he whom we must follow, on the morning after the 
stormy interview in the paviHon. 

He occupies a charming apartment in the Champs Elys^es ; 
small, of course, as befitting a bachelor, but furnished m the 
best taste. On entering his rooms there is one thing you could 
scarcely fail to notice ; and this is the surprising neatness, the 
almost mathematical precision, with which everything is ar- 
ranged. Books, pictures, desks, pistols, small-swords, boxing- 
gloves, riding-whips, canes, and guns — every object is disposSi 
m an order quite unusual in a bachelor's apartmeut. But this 
habit of neatness is one of the idiosyncrasies of Monsieur Marolles. 
It is to be seen in his exquisitely-appointed dress; in his care- 
fully-trimmed mbustache ; it is to be heard even in the inflexion a 
of his voice, which rise and fall with rather monotonous though 
melodious regularity, and which are never broken by anything 
so vulgar as anger or emotion. 

At ten o'clock this morning he is still seated at bieak&st. 
He has eaten nothing, bat he is drinking his second cup oi 
strong coffee, and it is eaAy to see that ne is thinking very 
de€>pAjf« 



112 The Trail of the Serpent. 

•* Yes," he mutters, " I must find a way to convince her ; she 
must be thoroughly convinced before she will be induced to act. 
My first blows have told so well, I must not fail in my master* 
stroke. But how to convince her — ^words alone will not satisfy 
her long ; there must be ocular demonstration." 

He finishes his cup of coffee, and sits playing with the tea- 
spoon, clinking it with a low musical sound a^^amst the china 
teacup. Presently he hits it with one loud ringing stroke. 
That stroke is a note of triumph. He has been working a 

Eroblem and has found the solution. He takes up his hat and 
urries out of the house ; but as soon as he is out of doors ho 
slackens his step, and resumes his usual lounging gait. He 
crosses the Place de la Concorde, and makes his way to the 
Boulevard, and only turns aside when he reaches the Itahan 
Opera House. It is to the stage-door he directs his steps. An 
old man, the doorkeeper, is busy in the little dark hall, manu- 
facturing a^jo^ afeuj and warming his hands at the same time 
at a tiny stove in a comer. He is quite accustomed to the 
apparition of a stylish young man; so he scarcely looks up 
when the shadow of Eaymond Marolles darkens the doorway. 

" Grood morning. Monsieur Concierge," says Raymond ; " you 
are very busy, I see." 

" A Httle domestic avocation, that is all, monsieur, being a 
bachelor." 

The doorkeeper is rather elderly, and somewhat snuffy for a 
bachelor ; but ne is very fond of informing the visitors of the 
stage-door that he has never sacrificed his Uberty at the shrine 
of Hymen. He thinks, perhaps, that they might scruple to give 
their messages to a married man. 

"Not too busy, then, for a little conversation, mv friend?" 
asks the visitor, slipping a five-franc piece into the porter's 
dingy hand. 

*' Never too busy for that, monsieur ;" and the porter abandons 
the pot a feu to its fate, and dusts with his coloured hand- 
kerchief a knock-kneed-looking easy-chair, which he presents to 
monsieur. 

Monsieur is very condescending, and the doorkeeper is very 
communicative. He gives monsieur a great deal of useful infor- 
mation about the salaries of the principal dancers ; the bouquets 
and diamond bracelets thrown to them; the airs and graces 
indulged in by them ; and divers other interesting facts. Pre- 
sently monsieur, who has been graciously though rather lan- 
guidly interested in all this, says — " Do you happen to have 
amongst your supernumeraries or choruses, or any of your 
insignificant people, one of those mimics so generally met with 
in a theatre P 

"Ah, " eaya the doorkeeper^ chuckling, " I see monsieur knowi 



Oeular Demonitration. 118 

theatre. We Have indeed two or three mimics ; but one above 
all — a ch(nras-sin^, a great man, who can strike off an imita- 
tion which is life itself; a dronken, dissolnte fellow, monsieur, or 
he woold have taken to principal characters and made himself a 
name. A fellow with a soul for nothing but dominoes and vulgar 
wine-shops ; but a wonderfal mimic." 

" Ah ! and he imitates, I suppose, all your great people— your 
prima donna, your basso, your tenor—" hazards Monsieur Ray- 
mond Marolles. 

" Yes, monsieur. You should hear him mimic this new tenor, 
this Monsieur Gaston de Lancy, who has made such a sensation 
this season. He is not a bad-looking fellow, pretty much the 
same height as De Lancy, and he can assume his manner, voice, 
and walk, so completely tiiat ** 

** Perhaps in a dark room yon could scarcely tell one &om the 
other, eh?" 

" Precisely, monsieur." 

" I have rather a curiosity about these sort of people ; and I 
should like to see this man, if—" he hesitates, jingling some 
silver in his pocket. 

" Nay, monsieur," says the porter ; nothing more easy ; this 
Mouc^e is always here about this time. They call the chorus to 
rehearsal while the great people are lounging over their break- 
fasts. We shall find him either on the s&ge, or in one of the 
dressing-rooms playing dominoes. This way, monsieur." 

Baymond Marolles Allows the doorkeeper down dark passages 
and up innumerable flights of stairs ; till, very high up, ne stops 
at a low door, on the other side of which there is evidently a 
rather noisy party. This door the porter opens without cere- 
mony, and he and Monsieur Marolles enter a long low room, 
with bare white-washed walls, scrawled over with charcoal 
caricatures of prima donnas and tenors, with impossible noses 
and spindle legs. Seated at a deal table is a ^oup of yount)' 
men, shabbily dressed, playing at dominoes, while others looV 
on and bet upon the game. They are all smoking tiny cigarettes, 
which look hke damp curl-papers, and which last about two 
minutes each. 

" Pardon me. Monsieur Mouc^e," says the porter, addressing 
one of the domino players, a good-looking young man, with a 
pale dark face and black hair — " pardon me that I disturb your 
pleasant game ; but I bring a gentleman who wishes to make 
your acquaintance." 

The chorus-singer rises, gives a lingering look at a double-six 
he was just going to play, and advances to where Monsieur 
Marolles is standmg. 

"At monsieur^s service," he says, with an nnstadied but 
gracefal bow. 

H 



114 The Trmt of the Serpent. 

Raymond MaroUes, witli an ease of manner all his own passei 
his arm throngli that of the yonng man, and leads him ont inta 
the passage. 

" I have heard, Monsieur Monc^e, that yon possess a talent 
for mimicry which is of a very superior order. Are yon willing 
to assist with this talent in a little farce I am preparing for the 
amusement of a lady ? If so you will have a claim (which 1 
shall not forget) on my ^atitude and on my purse." 

This last word makes JPaul Mouc^e prick up his ears. Poor 
fellow ! his last coin has gone for the half-ounce of tobacco he 
has just consumed. He expresses himself only too happy to 
obey the commands of monsieur. 

Monsieur suggests that they shall repair to an adjoining cafe, 
at which they can have half-an-hour's quiet conversation. They 
do so ; and at the end of the half hour. Monsieur Marolles parts 
with Paul Mouc^e at the door of this cafe. As they separate 
Raymond looks at his watch — " Half-past eleven ; all goes better 
than I could have even hoped. This man will do very well for 
our friend Elvino, and the lady shall have ocular demonstration. 
Now for the rest of my work; and to-night, my proud and 
beautiful heiress, for you.'* 

As the clocks strike ten that night, a hackney-coach stops 
close to the entrance of the Bois de Boulogne ; and as the coach- 
man checks his horse, a gentleman emerges from the gloom, and 
goes up to the door of the coach, which he opens before the 
driver can dismount. This gentleman is Monsieur Raymond 
Marolles, and Valerie de Lancy is seated in the coach. 

" Punctual, madame !" he says. "Ah, in the smallest mat- 
ters you are superior to your sex. May I request you to step 
out and walk with me for some little distance ? " 

The lady, who is thickly veiled, only bows her head in rexjly ; 
but she is by his side in a moment. He gives the coachroan 
some directions, and the man drives off a few paces ; he then 
offers his arm to Valerie. 

"Nay, monsieur," she says, in a cold, hard voice, "I can 
follow yon, or I can walk by your side. I had rather not take 
your arm.** 

Perhaps it is as well for this man's schemes that it is too dark 
for his companion to see the smile that lifts his black moustache, 
or the glitter in his blue eyes. He is something of a physiologist 
as well as a mathematician, this man ; and he can tell what she 
has suffered since last night by the change in her voice alone. 
It has a dull and monotonous sound, and the tone seems to 
have gone out of it for ever. If the dead could speak, they 
Blight speak thus. 

** This way, then, madame," lie says. " My £rst object is to 
ecmviiice yon of the treacherv of the man for whom you have 



Ocular Demonstration. 115 

sacrificed bo mnch. Have yon strength to live throngli the 
discovery P" 

** I lived throngh last night. Come, monsienr, waste no more 
time in words, or I shall think yon are a charlatan. Let me 
hear &om Ua Hps that I have canse to hate him." 

•* Follow me, then, and softly." 

He leads her into the wood. The trees are very yonng as yet, 
bnt all is obscnre to-night. There is not a star in the sky ; the 
December night is dark and cold. A shght faU of snow has 
whitened the CTonnd, and deadens the sonnd of footsteps. Eay« 
mond and Valerie might be two shadows, as they glide amongst 
the trees. After they have walked abont a qnarter of a mile, he 
catches her bv the arm, and draws her hnrriedly into the shadow 
of a gronp of yonng pine-trees. " Now," he says, " now listen." 

She hears a voice whose every tone she knows. "At first 
there is a rushing sonnd in her ears, as if all the blood were 
surging from her heart up to her brain ; but presently she hears 
distmctly; presently too, her eyes grow somewhat accustomed 
to the ^loom ; and she sees a few paces from her the dim outline 
of a tall figure, famiHar to her. It ig Gaston de Lancy, who is 
standing with one arm round the slight waist of a young girl, 
his head bending down with the graceful droop she knows so 
well, as he looks m her face. 

MaroUes* voice whispers in her ear, " The girl is a dancer from 
one of the minor theatres, whom he knew before he was a great 
man. Her name, I think, is Eosette, or something like it. She 
loves him very much; perhaps almost as much as yon do, in 
spite of the quarterings on your shield." 

He feels the slender hand, which before disdained to lean upon 
his arm, now clasp his wrisl^ and tighten, as if each taper finger 
were an iron vice. 

" Listen," he says again. " Listen to the drama, madame. I 
tm the chorus !" 

It is the girl who is speaking. " But, Gaston, this marriage^ 
this marriage, which has almosb broken my heart." 

"Was a sacrifice to our love, my Rosette. For your sake 
alone would I have made such a sacrifice. But this haughty 
lady's wealth will make us happy in a distant land. She little 
thinks, poor fool, for whose sake I endure her patrician airs, her 
gra-ces of the old regime, her caprices, and her folly. Only l>e 
pat^mt. Rosette, and trust me. The day that is to unite us for 
ever is not far distant, believe me." 

It is the voice of Gaston de Lancy. Who should better know 
those tones than his wife ? Who should better know them than 
she to whose proud heart they strike death ? 

The girl speaks again. " And you do not love this fine lady, 
Gaston P Only tell me that yon do not love her (" 



« 



UG The Trail of the Serpent 

Again the familiar voice speaks. "Love her! Bah! W« 
never love these fine ladies who give ns such tender glances from 
opera-boxes. We never admire these great heiresses, who fall i* 
loive with a handsome face, and have not enough modesty to 
keep the sentiment a secret; who think they honour ns oy a 
marriage which they are ashamed to confess ; and who fancy wo 
must needs be devoted to them, because, after their fashion, they 
in love with us." 
Have yon heard enough ?" asked Raymond MaroUes. 

'Give me a pistol or a dagger!" she gasped, in a hoarse 
whisper ; " let me shoot him dead, or stab him to iiie heart, that 
I may go away and die in peace ! " 

" So," muttered Raymond, " she has heard enough. ComCi 
madame. Yet — stay, one last look. You are sure that is 
Monsieur de Lancy P " 

The man and tne girl are standing a few yards from them; 
his back is turned to YaJerie, but she would baow him amongst 
a thousand by the dark hair and the peculiar bend of the head. 

" Sure I " she answers. " Am I myself ? " 

" Come, then ; we have another place to visit to-night. You 
are satisfied, are jou not^ madame, now that you have had 
ocular demonstration P" 



CHAPTER V. 

THE KING OP SPADES. 

When Monsieur Marolles offers his arm to lead Valerie de 
Cevennes back to the coach, it is accepted passively enough. 
Little matter now what new degradation she endures. Her 
pride can never fall lower than it has fallen. Despised by the 
man she loved so tenderly, the world's contempt is nothing to 
her. 

In a few minutes they are both seated in the coach driving 
through the Champs Elys^es. 

" Are you taking me home ?" she asks. 

•* No, madame, we have another errand, as I told you.'* 

" And that errand ? " 

" I am going to take you where you will have your fortune 
told." 

" My fortune !" she exclaims, with a bitter laugh. 

^ Bah I madame," says her companion. " Let us understand 
each other. I hope I have not to deal with a romantic and love- 
sick girl. I will not gall your pride by recalling to youi 
recollection in what a contemptible position I have found jow. 
7 offer my services to rescue you from that contemptibl« 



TJie King of Spades. 117 

position ; but I do so in the firm belief tLat yon are a woman ol 
npirit, courage, and determination, and '* 

" And that I can pay yon well," she adds, scornfully. 

••And that yon can pay me well. I am no Don Quixote, 
madame ; nor have I any great respect for that gentleman. 
Believe me, I intend that you shall pay me well for my services, 
AB yon will learn by-and-by." 

Again there is the cold glitter in the blue eyes, and tht 
ominous smile which a moustache does well to hide. 

"But," he continues, "if you have a mind to break your 
heart for an opera-singer's handsome face, go and break it in 
your boudoir, madame, with no better confidante than your 
lady's-maid ; for yon are not worthy of the services of Eaymond 
Marolles." 

"You rate yonr services very high, then, monsieur P" 

"Perhaps. Look you madame: you despise me because I 
am an adventurer. Had I been bom in the purple — lord, even 
in my cradle, of wide lands and a great name, you would 
respect me. Now, I respect myself because I am an adventurer ; 
because by the force alone of my own mind I have risen from 
what I was, to be what I am. I will show you my cradle some 
day. It had no tapestried coverlet or embroidered curtains, I 
can assure you." 

They are driving now through a dark street, in a neighbour- 
hood utterly unknown to the lady. 

"Where are you taking meP" she asks again, with some* 
thing like fear in her voice. 

"As I told yon before, to have your fortune told. Nay, 
madame, unless yon trust me, I cannot serve you. Remember, 
it is to my interest to serve you well : yon can therefore have 
no cause for fear." 

As he speaks they stop before a ponderous gateway in the 
blank wall of a high dark-looking house. They are somewhere 
in the neighbourhood of Notre Dame, for the grand old towers 
loom dimly in the darkness. Monsieur Marolles gets out of 
the coach and rings a bell, at the sound of which the porter 
opens the door, fiaymond assists Yalerie to dismount, and 
leads her across a courtyard into a little hall, and up a stone 
staircase to the fifth story of the house. At another time her 
courage might have failed her in this strange house, at so late 
an hour, with this man, of whom she knows nothing; but she 
is reckless to-night. 

There is nothing very alarming in the aspect of the room 
into which Raymond leads her. It is a cheerful little apart- 
ment lighted with gas. There is a small stove, near a table, 
before which is seated a gentlemanly-looking man, of some forty 
years of age. He has a very pale Cacc, «b wc«A. ivrc^'^a.^^Sx^'Ok 



118 The Trail of tie Serpent. 

whioh the hair is brushed away behind the ears : he wears bln« 
spectacles, whioh entirely conceal his eyes, and in a manner 
snade his face. You cannot tell what he is thinking of; for it 
is a peculiarity of this man that the mouth, which with other 
people is generally the most expressive feature, has with him 
no expression whatever. It is a thin, straight line, which opens 
and snuts as he speaks, but whioh never curves into a smile, or 
contracts when he frowns. 

He is deeply en^ged, bending over a pack of cards spread 
out on the green doth which covers the table, as if he were 
playing ecarie without an opponent, when Raymond opens the 
door ; but he rises at the sight of the lady, and bows low to her. 
He has the air of a student rather than of a man of the world. 

•*My good Blurosset," says Raymond, "I have brought a 
lady to see you, to whom I have been si)eaking very highly of 
your talents." 

** With the pasteboard or the crucible P " asks the impassible 
mouth. 

"Both, my dear fellow; we shall want both your talents. 
Sit down, madame ; I must do the honours of the apartment, 
for my friend Laurent Blurosset is too much a man of science 
to be a man of gallantry. Sit down, madame ; place yourself at 
this table — there, opposite Monsieur Blurosset, and then to 
businoss.'* 

This Raymond Marolles, of whom she knows absolutely 
nothing, has a strange influence over Yalerie; an influence 
against which she no longer struggles. She obeys him passively, 
and seats herself before the little green baize-covered table. 

The blue spectacles of Monsieur Laurent Blurosset look at 
her attentively for two or three minutes. As for the eyes 
behind the spectacles, she cannot even guess what might be 
revealed in their light. The man seems to have a strange 
advantage in looking at every one as from behind a screen. 
His own face, with hidden eyes and inflexible mouth, is Lie a 
blank wall. 

"Now then, Blurosset, we wiU begin with the pasteboard. 
Madame would like to have her fortune told. She knows of 
course that this fortune- telling is mere charlatanism, but she 
wishes to see one of the cleverest charlatans." 

"Charlatanism! Charlatan! Well, it doesn't matter. 1 
believe in what I read here, because I find it true. The first 
time I find a false meaning in these bits of pasteboard I shall 
throw them into that fire, and never touch a card again. 
They've been the hobby of twenty years, but you know I could 
do it, Englishman !*' 

"Englishman I" exclaimed Yalerie, looking up with astonish- 
meat 



The Kmg of Spade$. 119 

"Yes," answered Raymond, laughing; "a enmame whicli 
Mionsieur Blurosset has bestowed npon me, in ridicule of my 
politics, which happened once to resemble those of our honest 
neighbour, John Bull." 

Monsieur Blurosset nods an assent to Raymond's assertion^ 
AS he takes the cards in his thin yellow- white hands and begins 
shuffling them. He does this vdth a skiU peculiar to himself, 
and you could almost guess in watching him that these little 
pieces of pasteboard have been his companions for twenty years. 
Presently he arranges them in groups of threes, fives, sevens, 
and nines, on the green baize, reserving a few cards in his 
hand; then the blue spectacles are lifted and contempkto 
Valerie for two or three seconds. 

"Your friend is the queen of spades," he says, turning to 
Raymond. 

"Decidedly," replies Monsieur MaroUes. "How the insipid 
diamond beauties fade beside this gorgeous loveliness of the 
south !*'^ 

Yalerie does not hear the compliment, which at another time 
slie would have resented as an insult. She is absorbed in 
watching the groups of cards over which the blue spectacles 
are so intently bent. 

Monsieur Blurosset seems to be working some abstruse 
calculations with these groups of cards, assisted by those he 
has in his hand. The spectacles wander from the threes to 
the nines; &om liie sevens to the fives; back again; across 
again; from five to nine, from three to seven; from five to 
three, from seven to nine. Presently he says — 

"The king of spades is everywhere here." He does not 
look up as he speaks — ^never raising the spectacles from the 
cards. His manner of speaking is so passionless and mechanical, 
that he might almost be some calculating automaton. 

" The king of spades," says Raymond, " is a dark and hand* 
Bomeyoung man. 

"Yes,'' says Blurosset, "he's everywhere beside the queen of 
spades/; / . . 

Yalerie in spite of herself is absorbed by this man's words. 
She never takes her eves from the spectacles and the thin pale 
lips of the fortune-teller. 

" I do not like his influence. It is bad. This king of spades 
is dragging the queen down, down into the very mii-e." 
Valerie's cheeks can scarcely grow whiter than it has been ever 
since the revelation of the Bois de Boulogne, but she cannot 
repress a shudder at these words. 

"There is a falsehood," continues Monsieur Blurosset; "and 
there is a fair woman here." 

" A fair woman 1 That girl "we saw Vwni^^. \% i^^ "^^Ns^ask 



120 The Trail 0/ the Serpent 

Eajiuond. "No doubt Monsieur Don Giovanni admires blondeii 
having himself the southern beanty." 

" Tne fair woman is always with the king of spsides," says 
the fortune-teller. " There is here no falsehood — nothing but 
devotion. The king of spades can be true ; he is true to this 
diamond woman; but for the queen of spades he has nothing 
but treachery." 

" Is there anything more on the cards P" asks Eaymond. 

"Yes! A priest— -a marriage — ^money. Ah! tnis king oi 
Qpades imagines that he is withm reach of a great fortune." 

"Does he deceive himself?" 

"Yes! Now the treachery chances sides. The queen of 

gpades is in it now But stay — tne traitor, the real tiaitor 

is here ; this fair man — ^the knave of diamonds " 

Raymond Marolles lays his white hand suddenly upon the 
card to which Blurosset is pointing, and says, hurriedly, — 

" Bah ! You have told us all about yesterday ; now tell us 
of to-morrow." And then he adds, in a whisper, in the ear of 
Monsieur Blurosset, — 

" Fool ! have you forgotten your lesson P" 

" They will speak the truth," mutters the fortune-teller. " I 
was carried away by them. I will be more careful." 

This whispered dialogue is unheard by Valerie, who sits immov- 
able, awaiting the sentence of the oracle, as if the monotonous 
voice of Monsieur Blurosset were the voice of Nemesis. 

" Now then for the future," says Ray'/jond. "It is possible 
to tell what has happened. We wish to pass the confines of the 
possible : tell us, then, what is going to happen." 

Monsieur Blurosset collects the cards, shuffles them, and 
rearranges them in groups, as before. Again the blue specta- 
cles wander. From three to nine ; from nine to seven ; from 
seven to five; Valerie following them vrith bright and hollow 
eyes. Presently the fortune-teller says, in his old mechanical 
way,— 

" The queen of spades is very proud." 

"Yes, mutters Raymond in Valerie's ear. "Heaven help 
the king who injures such a queen !" 

She does not take her eyes from the blue spectacles of Mon- 
Bieur. Blurosset ; but there is a tightening of her determined 
mouth which seems like an assent to this remark. 

" She can hate as well as love. The king of spades is in 
danger," says the fortune-teller. 

There is, for a few minutes, dead silence, while the blue spec- 
tacles shift from group to group of cards; Valerie intently 
watching them, Raymond intently watching her. 

This time there seems to be something difficult in the calcu« 
iaiion of the numhera. The spectacles smft. "VaX^aet mi^ ^iJcQ?Ow^st^ 



ne Eing of Spaief. 121 

find the thin white lips more sifentlj and rapidlj, firm seven to 
nine, and back again to seven. 

"There is something on the cards that puzzles yon,'* says 
Baymond, breaking the deathly silence. " What is it ?** 

" A death !" answers the passionless Toice of Monsieur Bln« 
rosset. ''A violent death, which bears no outward sign of 
violence. I said, did I not, that the king of spades wan in 
danger ?" 

"You did." 

From three to five, from five to nine, firom nine to seven, firom 
seveh to nine: the groups of cards form a circle: three times 
round the circle, as the sun goes ; back again, and three times 
round the circle in a contrary direction : across the circle from 
three to seven, from seven to five, from five to nine, and the 
blue spectacles come to a dead stop at nine. 

" Before twelve o'clock to-morrow night the king of spades 
will be dead !" says the monotonous voice of Monsieur Blurosset. 
The voices of the clocks of Paris seem to take up Monsieur 
Blurosset's voice as they strike the hour of midnight. 

Twenty-four hours for the king of spades ! 

Monsieur Blurosset gathers up his cards and drops them into 
his pocket. Malicious people say that he sleeps with them 
under his pillow ; that he plays ecarte by himself in his sleep ; 
and that he has played piquet with a very tall dark gentleman, 
whom the porter never let either in or out, and who left a 
sulphureous and suffocating atmosphere behind him in Monsieur 
Bluresset's Httle apartment. 

" Good !" says Monsieur Raymond Marolles. ** So much for 
the pasteboard. Now for the crucible." 

For the first time since the discovery of the treacheiy of her 
husband Yalerie de Lancy smiles. She has a beautiful smile, 
which cuires the delicate lips without distorting tliem, and 
which brightens in her large dark eyes vdth a glorious tire of 
the sunny south. But for all that, Heaven save the man who 
has injured her from the light of such a smilo as hers of 
to-night. 

"You want my assistance in some matters of chemistry P" 
asks Blurosset. 

*• Yes ! I forgot to tell you, madame, that my friend Laiu'ent 
Blurosset — ^though he chooses to hide himself in one of the most 
obscure streets of Paris — is perhaps one of the greatest men in 
this mighty city. He is a chemist who will one day work n 
revolution m the chemical science ; but he is a fanatic, madame, 
or. let me rather sav. he is a lover, and his crucible is his miS" 
tress. This blind devotion to a scieDce is surely only another 
form of the world's great madness — love I Who knows what 
bright eyes a problem in Euclid may "bov^ te^^fift^^ ^\ia ^»si 



122 The Trail of the Serpent 

tell what fair hair may not have been forgotten in the searcli 
after a Greek root ?" 

Valerie shivers. Heaven help that shattered heart! Every 
word that touches on the master-passion of her life is a wound 
that pierces it to the core. 

"You do not smoke, Blurosset. Foolish man you do not 
know how te live. Pardon, madame." He Hghts his cigar at 
the green-shaded gas-lamp, seats himself close to the stove, and 
Bmokes for a few minutes m silence. 

Yalerie, still seated before the little table, watehes him with 
fixed eyes, waiting for him to speak. 

In the utter shipwreck of her every hope this adventurer ia 
the only anchor to which she can cling. Presently he says, in 
his most easy and indifferent manner, — 

" It was the fashion at the close of the fifteenth and through- 
out the sixteenth century for the ladies of Italy te acquire a 
certain knowledge of some of the principles of chemistry. Of 
course, at the head of these ladies we must place Lucretia 
Borgia." 

Monsieur Blurosset nods an assent. Valerie looks from 
Raymond to the blue spectacles ; but the face of the chemist 
testifies no shade of surprise at the singularity of Raymond's 
observation. 

" Then," continued Monsieur Marolles, " if a lady was deeply 
injured or crueUy . insulted by the man she loved ; if her pnde 
was trampled in the dust, or her name and her weakness held 
up to ridicule and contempt — then she knew how te avenge 
herself and to defy the world. A tender pressure of the traitor's 
hand ; a flower or a ribbon given as a pledge of love ; the leaves 
of a book hastily turned over with the tips of moistened fingers 
— people had such vulgar habits in those days — and behold the 
gentleman died, and no one was any the wiser but the worms, 
with whose constitutions aqua tofa/na at second hand may 
possibly have disagreed." 

" Vultures have died from the effects of poisoned carrion," 
muttered Monsieur Blurosset. 

"But in this degenerate age," continued Raymond, "what 
can our Parisian ladies do when they have reason to be re- 
venged on a traitor? The poor blunderers can only give him 
half a pint of laudanum, or an ounce or so of arsemc, and mn 
the risk of detection half an hour after his death ! I think that 
time is a circle, and that we retreat as we advance, in spite of 
our talk of progress." 

His horrible words, thrice horrible when contrasted vdth the 
coolness of his easy manner, freeze Valerie te the very heart ; 
but she does not make one effort to interrupt him. 

"Now" my good Blurosset," he resumes, " what I want o/ 



The Ki/ng of Spades. 123 

yon is this. Something wliicli will change a glass of wine into 
a death-warrant, but which will defy the scrutiny of a college 
of physicians. This lady wishes to take a lesson in chemisti^. 
She will, of course, only experimentalise on rabbits, and she la 
BO tender-hearted that, as you see, she shudders even at the 
thought of that little cruelty. For the rest, to repay you for 
your trouble, if you will give her pen and ink, she will write 
you an order on her banker for five thousand francs. 

Monsieur Blurosset appears no more surprised at this request 
than if he had been asked for a glass of water. He goes to a 
cabinet, which he opens, and after a little search selects a small 
tin box, from which he takes a few grains of white powder, 
which he screws carelessly in a scrap of newspaper. * He is so 
much accus^med to handling these compounds that he treats 
them with very small ceremony. 

" It is a slow poison," he says. " For a fiill-ffrown rabbit use 
the eighth part of what you have there ; the wnole of it would 
poison a man ; but death in either case would not be immediate 
The operation of the poison occupies some hours before it 
terminates fatally." 

" Madame will use it with discretion," says Raymond ; " do 
not fear." 

Monsieur Blurosset holds out the little packet as if expecting 
Valerie to take it ; she recoils with a ghastly face, and shudders 
as she looks from the chemist to Raymond Marolles. 

" In this degenerate age," says Raymond, looking her steadily 
in the face, "our women cannot redress their own wrongs, 
however deadly those wrongs may be ; they must have fathers, 
brothers, or uncles to fight for them, and the world to vdtness 
the struggle. Bah! There is not a woman in France who is 
any better than a sentimental schoolgirl." 

V alerie stretches out her small hand to receive the packet. 

"Give me the pen, monsieur," says she; and the chemist 
presents her a habf sheet of paper, on which she writes hurriedly 
an order on her bankers, which she signs in fuU with her 
maiden name. 

Monsieur Blurosset looked over the paper as she wrote. 

"Yalerie de Cevennes!" he exclaimed. "I did not know I 
was honoured by so aristocratic a visitor." 

Valerie put her hand to her head as if bewildered. " My 
name ! " she muttered, " I forgot, I forgot." 

"What do you fear, madameP" asked Raymond, with a 
smile. " Are you not among friends ?" 

" For pity's sake, monsieur," she said, " give me your arm* 
and take me back to the carriage I 1 ahaiV &cy^ ^or^ii \<^fa^'"^'V 
sta/ longer in this rooHi.'^ 1 



124 The Trail of the Serpent 

The bine spectacles contemplated her gravely for a nxoment* 
Monsieur Blurosset laid one cold hand npon her pnlse, and with 
the other took a little bottle from the cabinet, out of which he 
gave his visitor a few drops of a transparent liqnid. 

" She will do now," he said to Eavmond, " till yon get her 
home; then see that she takes this,** he added, handing 
Monsienr MaroUes another phial; "it is an opiate which will 
procure her six hours' sleep. Without that she would go mad.** 

Eaymond led Yalerie from the room ; but, once outside, her 
head fell heavily on his shoulder, and he was obliged to carry 
her down the steep stairs. 

** I think,** he muttered to himself as he went out into th« 
courtyard with his unconscious burden, "I think we have sealed 
the doom of the king of spades ! " 



CHAPTER YL 

A GLASS OF WIKE. 

tJpON a little table in the boudoir of the pavilion lay a letter. 
It was the first thing Valerie de Lancy beneld on entering the 
room, with Raymond MaroUes by her side, half an hour after 
she had left the apartment of Monsieur Blurosset. This letter 
was in the handwriting of her husband, and it bore the post- 
mark of Rouen. Valerie's face told her companion whom the 
letter came from before she took it in her hand. 

"Read it,** he said, coolly. "It contains his excuses, no 
doubt. Let us see what pretty story he has invented. In his 
early professional career his companions surnamed him Baron 
Munchausen.'* 

Valerie*s hand shook as she broke the seal ; but she read the 
letter carefully through, and then turning to Raymond she said — 

" You are right ; his excuse is excellent, only a Httle too 
transparent: Hsten. 

" * The reason of my absence from Paris '—(absence from 
Paris, aud to-mght in the Bois de Boulogne) — * is most extra- 
ordinary. At the conclusion of the opera last night, I was 
auramoned to the stage-door, where I found a messenger waiting 
for me, who told me he had come post-haste from Rouen, 
where my mother was lying dangerously ill, and to implore me, 
if I wished to see her before her death, to start for that place 
immediately. Even my love for you, which vou well know. 
Valeric, is th^ absorbing passion of my life, was wrgottim in such 
a moment. I had no means of communicating with you without 
endangering our secret. Imagine, then, iny surprise on my 
arrival here, to find that my mother is in perfect health, and 
had of coarse sent no messenger to me. I fear in this mystery 



A Glass of Wine. 125 

some conspiracy which threatens the safety of o!:r secret. I 
shall be in Paris to-night, but too late to see you. To-morrow,'at 
dusk, I shall be at the dear little paviHon, once more to be blest 
Ly a smile from the only eyes I love. — Gaston de Lancy.' " 

"Eather a blundermg epistle," muttered Eaymond. **I 
should really have given him credit for something better. Yoa 
will receive him to-morrow evening, madame?" 

She knew so weU the purport of this question that her hand 
almost involuntarily tightened on the httle packet ^ven her by 
Monsieur Blurosset, which she had held all this time, but she 
did not answer him. 

" You will receive him to-morrow ; or by to-morrow night all 
Paris wiQ know of this romantic but rather ridiculous marriaga 
it wiQ be in all the newspapers — caricatured in all the print- 
shops; Charivari will have a word or two about it, and little 
boys will cry it in the streets, a full, true, and particular 
account for only one sous. But then, as I said before, you are 
superior to your sex, and perhaps you will not mind this kind of 
thmg." 

" 1 shall see him to-morrow evening at dusk," she said, in a 
hoarse whisper not pleasant to hear; "and I shall never see 
him again after to-morrow." 

" Once more, then, good night," says Raymond. " But stay, 
Monsieur begs you will take this opiate. Nay," he muttered 
with a laugh as she looked at him strangely, "you may be 
perfectly assured of its harmlessness. Remember, I have not 
been paid yet." 

He bowed, and left the room. She did not lift her eyes to 
look at him as he bade her adieu. Those hollow tearless eyes 
were fixed on the letter she held in her left hand. She was 
thinking of the first time she saw this handwriting, when every 
letter seemed a character inscribed in fire, because Ms hand hall 
shaped it; when the tiniest scrap of paper covered with the 
most ordiiiary words was a precious talisman, a jewel of more 
price than the diamonds of all the Cevennes. 

The short winter's day died out, and through the dusk a 
voung man, in a thick greatcoat, walked rapidly along the 
broad quiet street in which the pavilion stood. Once or twice 
he looked round to assure himself that he was unobserved 
He tried the handle of the little wooden door, found it un- 
fiistened, opened it softly, and went in. In a few minutes 
he was in the boudoir, and by the side of Valerie. The girl's 
proud face was paler than when he had last seen it ; and when 
he tenderly asked the reason of this change, she said, — 

" I have been anxious about you, Gaston. You can scarcely 
wonde " ^ 



I 



126 The Trail of tie Serpent. 

•* The Toice too, even yonr voice is changed," he said anxionsly . 
** Stay, snrely I am the victim of no juggling snare. It is — ^it 
Ib Valerie." 

The httle bondoir was only lighted by the wood fire bnming 
on the low hearth. He drew her towards the blaze, and looked 
her full in the face. 

"Yon wonld scarcely believe me," he said; "but for the 
moment I half doubted if it were really you. The false alarm, 
the hurried journey, one thing and another have upset me so 
completely, that you seemed chaneed — altered; I can scarcely 
tell you how, but altered very mucn." 

Sne seated herself in the easy-chair by the hearth. There 
was an embroidered velvet footstool at her feet, and he placed 
himself on this, and sat looking up in her face. She laid her 
slender hands on his dark hair, and looked straight into his 
eyes. Who shall read her thoughts at this moment ? She had 
learnt to despise him, but she had never ceased to love him. 
She had cause to hate him ; but she could scarcely have told 
whether the bitter anguish which rent her heart were nearer 
akin to love or hate. 

"Pshaw, Gaston!" she exclaimed, "you are full of silly 
fancies to-night. And I, you see, do not offer to reproach you 
once for the uneasiness you have caused me. See now readily 
I accept your excuse for your absence, and never breathe one 
doubt of its truth. Now, were I a jealous or suspicious woman, 
I might have a hundred doubts. I might think you did not love 
me, and fancy that your absence was a voluntary one. I might 
even be so fooHsh as to picture you with another whom you 
loved better than me." 

" Yalerie !" he said, reproachfully, raising her small hand to 
his lips. 

"Nay," she cried, with a Hght laugh, "this might be the 
thought of a jealous woman. But could I think so of you, 
Gaston?" 

" Hark ! " he said, staiting and rising hastily ; " did you not 
hear something?" 

•*What?" 

" A rastling sound by that door — the door of your dressing- 
room. Finette is not there, is she ? I left her in the Jvnteroom 
below." 

" No, no, Gaston ; there is no one there ; this is another of 
your silly fancies." 

He glanced uneasily towards the door, but re- seated himself 
at her feet, and looked once more upward to the proudly 
beautiful face. Valerie did not look at her companion, but 
at the fire. Her dark eyes were fixed upon the blaze, and 
she seemed almost unconscious of Gaston de Lancy's presence. 



A Glass of Wine. 127 

WTiat did she see in the red light? Her shipwrecked sonlP 
The ruins of her hopes ? The ghost of her dead happiness ? 
The image of a long and dreary futnre, in which tne love 
on whose foundation she had bnilt a bright and peaceful life 
to come could have no part ? What did she see P A warning 
arm stretched out to save her from the commission of a dreadful 
deed, which, once committed, mnst shut her out from all earthly 
sympathy, though not perhaps from heavenly forgiveness ; or a 
3tem finger pointing to the dark end to which she hastens with 
a purpose in ner heart so strange and fearful to her she scarcely 
can believe it is her own, or that she is herself? 

With her left hand still upon the dark hair — ^which even now 
die could not touch without a tenderness, that, having no part 
in her nature of to-day, seemed like some relic of the wreck of 
the past — she stretched out her right arm towards a table near 
her, on which there were some decanters and glasses that clashed 
wili a silveiy sound under her touch. 

" I must try and cure you of your fancies, Giaston. My 
physician insists on my takmg every day at luncheon a glass of 
that old Madeira of which my uncle is so fond. They have 
not removed the wine — you shall take some; pour it out 
yourself. See, here is the decanter. I will hold the glass 
for you." 

She held the antique diamond-cut glass with a steady hand 
while Gaston poured the wine into it. The light from the woovl 
fire flickered, and he spilt some of the Madeira over her dress. 
They both laughed at this, and her laugh rang out the clearer 
of the two. 

There was a third person who laughed; but his was a 
silent laugh. This third persoli was Monsieur MaroUes, whc» 
stood within the half-open door tJiat led into Valerie's dressing- 
room. 

" So," he says to himself, " this is even better than I had 
hoped. I feared his handsome face would shake her resolution. 
The light in those dark eyes is very beautiful, no doubt, but it 
has not long to bum." 

As the firelight flashed upon the glass, Gaston held it for a 
moment between his eyes and the blaze. 

" Your uncle's wine is not very clear," he said ; " but I would 
drink the vilest vinegar from the worst tavern in Paris, if you 
poured it out for me, Yalerie." 

As he emptied the glass the Httle time-piece struck six. 

"I must go, Yalerie. I play Gennaro in Lucretia Borgia, 
and the King is to be at the theatre to-night. You will come ? 
I shall not smg well if you are not there." 

"Yes, yes, Gaston." Shif laid her hand upon her head as 
she spoke 



The Trail of the Serpent 

Are you ill P" lie asked, anxioiisly. 

" No, no, it is nothing. Go, Gaston ; you must not keep hu 
Majesty waiting," she said. 

I wonder whether as she spoke there rose the image in her 
mind of a E[ing who reigns in undisputed power over the earth's 
wide face ; whose throne no revolution ever shook ; whose edict 
no creature ever yet set aside, and to whom all terrible things 
give place, owning in him the King of Terrors ! 

The young man took his wife in his arms and pressed 
his lips to her forehead. It was damp with a deadly cold 
perspiration. 

" I am sure you are ill, Yalerie," he said. 

She shivered violently, but pushing him towards the door, 
aaid, **No, no, Gaston; go, I implore you; you will be late; 
at the theatre you will see me. Till, then, adieu." 

He was gone. She closed the door upon him rapidly, and 
with one long shudder fell to the ground, striking her head 
against the ^ded moulding of the door. Monsieur Marolles 
©merged from the shadow, and lifting her from the floor, placed 
her in the chair by the hearth. Her head fell heavily back 
upon the velvet cushions, but her large black eyes were 
open. I have said before, this woman was not subject to 
fainting-fits. 

She caught Eaymond's hand in hers with a convulsive 
grasp. 

"Madame," he said, "you have shown yourself indeed a 
daughter of the haughty line of the De Cevennes. You have 
avenged yourself most nobly." 

The large black eyes did not look at him. They were fixed 
on vacancy. Vacancy ? No ! there could be no such thing as 
vacancy for this woman. Henceforth for her the whole earth 
must be filled vdth one hideous phantom. 

There were two wine-glasses on the table which stood a little 
way behind the low chair in which Valerie was seated — very 
beautiful glasses, antique, exquisitely cut, and emblazoned with 
the arms of the De Cevennes. In one of those glasses, the one 
from which Gaston de Lancy had drunk, there remained a few 
drops of wine, and a little white sediment. Valerie did not see 
Raymond, ai^ with a stealthy hand he removed this glass from 
the table, and put it in the pocket of his greatcoat. 

He looked once more at her as she sat with rigid mouth 
and staring eyes, and then he said, as he moved towards the 
door, — 

" I shall see you at the opera, madame ! I shall be in the 
stalls. You will be, with more than your wonted brilliancy 
and beau^, the centre of observation m the box next to th« 
King's. Kemember, that until to-night is over, your play will 



The Last Act of Lucretia Borgia, 129 

not be played out. Au revoir, madame. To-inoiTOw I shall 
say mademoiselle! For to-morrow the secret marriage of 
Valerie de Oevennes with an opera-singer will only be a foolis 
memory of the past." 



CHAPTER YII. 

THE LAST ACT OP LUCRETIA BOEGLL 

Two hours after this interview in the pavilion Baymond 
Marolles is seated in his old place in the front row of the 
stalls. Several times during the prologue and the first act of 
the opera liis glass seeks the box next to that of the King, 
always to find it empty. But after the curtain has fallen on 
the finale to the first act, the quiet watcher raises his glass 
once more, and sees Valerie enter, leaning on her uncle's arm. 
Her dark beauty loses nothing by its unusual pallor, and her 
eyes to-night have a brilliancy wnich, to the admiring crowd, 
who know so little and so little care to know the secrets of 
her proud soul, is very beautiful. She wears a high dress of 
dark green velvet, fastened at the throat with one small dia- 
mond ornament, which trembles and emits bright scintillations 
of rainbow Hght. This sombre dress, her deadly pallor, and 
the strange me in her eyes, give to her beauty of to-night a 
certain peculiarity which renders her more than usually the 
observed of all observers. 

She seats herself directly facing the stage, laying down her 
costly bouquet, which is ot one pure white, being composed 
entirely of orange-flowers, snowdrops, and jasmine, a mixture 
of winter, summer, and hot-house blossoms for which her 
florist knows how to charge her. She veils the intensity which 
is the distinctive character of her face with a weary listless 
glance to-night. She does not once look round the house. 
She has no need to look, for it seems as if without looking 
she can |«e the pale face of Monsieur Marolles, who lounges 
with his back to the orchestra, and his opera-glass in his hand. 

The Marquis de Oevennes glances at the programme of the 
opera, and tnrows it away from him with a dissatisfied air. 

" That abominable poisoning woman !" he says ; " when will 
whe Parisians be tired of horrors P" 

His niece raises her eyebrows slightly, but does not lift her 
eyelids as she says — " An, when, indeed !" 

•* I don't like these subjects," continued the marquis. ** Even 
the handling of a Victor Hugo cannot make them otherwise 
than repulsive : and then again, there is something to be said 
on the score of their evil tendency. They set a dangerous 
example. Lucretia Borgia^ in black Talyet, avenging an insnli 



{ 



•JBO The Trail of (Tie Serpent 

according to tHe rules of high art and to the mnsic of Dont- 
eetti is very charming, no doubt ; but we don't want our wives 
and daughters to learn how they may poison us without fear 
of detection. What do you say, Rinval?" he asked, turning to 
a young officer who had just entered the box. " Do you think 
I am ri^ht ?" 

•^Entirely, my dear marquis. The representation of such 
a hideous subject is a sin against beauty and innocence," he 
said, bowing to Valerie. "And, though the music is very 
exquisite " 

"Yes," said Yalerie, " my uncle cannot help admiring tho 
music. How have they been singing to night ?** 

" Why, strange to say, for once De Lancy has disappointed 
his admirers. His G^nnaro is a very weak performance." 

•'Indeed!" She takes her bouquet in her hand and plays 
with the drooping blossom of a snowdrop. "A weak perform- 
ance? You surprise me really!" She might be speaking 
of the flowers she holds, from the perfect indifference of her 
tone. 

"They say he is ill," continues Monsieur Rinval. "He 
almost broke down in the 'Pescator ignobile.' But the cur- 
tain has risen — ^we shall have the poison scene soon, and you 
can judge for yourself." 

She laughs. " Nay," she says, " I have never been so enthu- 
siastic an admirer of this voung man as you are. Monsieur 
Hinval. I should not thinl: the world had oome to an end if 
he happened to sing a false note." 

The young Parisian bent over her chair, admiring her grace 
and beauty — admirinff, perhaps, more than all, the haughty 
indifference with which she spoke of the opera-singer, as if he 
were something too far removed from her sphere for her to be 
in earnest about him even for one moment. Might he not 
have wondered even more, if he had admired her less, could he 
have known that as she looked up at him with a radiant face, 
she could not even see him standing close beside her ; that to 
her clouded sight the opera-house was only a confusion of 
waving lights and burning eyes ; and that, in the midst of a 
chaos of blood and fire, she saw the vision of her lover and 
her husband dying by the hand that had caressed him P 

•^Ifow for the banquet scene," exclaimed Monsieur Rinval. 
" Ah i there is Gennaro. Is he not rforiously handsome in 
ruby rel vet and gold? That clubbed Venetian wig becomes 
)iim. It is a wig, I suppose." 

" Oh, no doubt. That sort of people owe half their beauty to 
wigs, and white and red paint, do they not?" she asked, 
eoatemptuouslj; and even as she spoke she was thinking oif 



The Last Act of Zucretia Borgia. 131 

the dark hair which her white fingers had smoothed away from 
the broad brow so often, in that time which, gone by a few 
short days, seemed centuries ago to her. She had suffered the 
anguish of a life-time in losing the bright dream of her hfe. 

" See," said Monsieur Rinval, " Gennaro has the poisoned 
poblet in his hand. He is acting veiy badly. He is supporting 
himself with one hand on the back of that chair, though ne has 
not yet drunk the fatal draught." 

De LaucY was indeed leaning on an antique stage-chair for 
support. Once he passed his hajid across his forenead, as if 
to collect his scattered senses, but he drank the wine, and w^t 
on with the music. Presently, however, every performer in Se 
orchestra looked up as if thunderstruck. He had left off sing- 
ing in the middle of a concerted piece ; but the Maffeo Orsini 
took up the passage, and the opera proceeded. 

"He is either £11, or he does not know the music," said 
Monsieur Rinval. "If the last, it is really shameful; and he 
presumes on the indulgence of the public." 

" It is always the case with these favourites, is it not P" asked 
Valerie. 

At this moment the centre of the stage was thrown open. 
There entered first a procession of black and shrouded monks 
singing a dirge. Next, pale, haughty, and vengeful, the terrible 
Lucretia burst upon the scene. 

Scornful and triumphant she told the companions of Gennaro 
that their doom was sealed, pointing to where, in the ghastly 
background, were ranged five coffins, waiting for their destined 
occupants. The audience, riveted by the scene, awaited that 
thrilling question of Gtennaro, "Then, madame, where is the 
sixth ?" and as De Lancy emerged from behind his comrades 
every eye was fixed upon him. 

Bfe advanced towards Lucretia, tried to sing, but his voice 
broke on the first note ; he caught with his hand convulsively 
at his throat, staggered a pace or two forward, and then fell 
heavily to the floor. There was immediate consternation and 
confusion on the stage; chorus and singers crowded rois^id 
him ; one of the singers knelt down by his side, and raised 
his head. As he did so, the curtain fell suddenly. 

" I was certain he was ill," said Monsieur Einval, " I fear it 
must be apoplexy." 

" It is rather an uncharitable suggestion," said the marquis ; 
•• but do you not think it just possible that the young man 
maybe tipsy P" 

There was a great buzz of surprise amongst the audience, and 
in about three minutes one of the performers came before the 
curtain, and announced that in consequence of the sudden and 
alarming illness of Monsieur de Laaoy it 'nr^a \ar^%<^^<^ \f^ «:dste 



132 ' The Trail of the Serpent. 

elude the opera. Hi requested tlie indulgence of tlie aadieaca 
for a favourite ballet whicn would commence immediately. 

The orchestra began the overture of the ballet, and several of 
the audience rose to leave the house. 

** Will you stop any longer, YalerieP cv has this dismal ^altf 
dispirited you P** said the marquis. 

" A little," said Yalerie ; •* besides, we have promised to look 
in at Madame de Yermanville's concert before going to the 
duchesses ball." 

Monsieur Einval helped to muffle her in her cloak, and then 
offered her his arm. As they passed from the great entrance to 
the carriage of the marquis, Yalerie dropped her bouquet. A 
gentleman advanced from the crowd and restored it to her. 

"I congratulate you alike on your strength of mind, as on 
your beaut^r, mademoiselle /" he said, in a whisper too low for 
her companions to hear, but with a terrible emphasis on the last 
word. 

As she stepped into the carriage, she heard a bystander say — 

*• Poor fellow, only seven-and-twenty! And so marvellously 
handsome and gifted I" 

" Dear me," said Monsieur Einval, di'awing up the carriage 
window, " how very shocking ! De Lancy is dead ! " 

Yalerie did not utter one exclamation at this announcement. 
She was looking steadily out of the opposite window. She was 
counting the lamps in the streets through the mist of a winter's 
night. 

** Only twenty-seven !*' she cried hysterically, " only twenty- 
seven! It might have been thirty-seven, forty-seven, fifty- 
seven ! But he despised her love ; he trampled out the best 
feelings of her soul; so it was only twenty-seven 1 Marvel- 
lously handsome, and only twenty-seven l" 

" For heaven's sake open the windows and stop the carriage, 
Binval 1 " cried the marquis — " I'm sure my niece is ill." 

She burst into a long, ringing laugh. 

" My dear uncle, you are quite mistaken. I never was better 
in my life ; but it seems to me as if the death of this opera- 
singer has driven everybody mad." 

They drove rapidly home, and took her into the house. The 
maid JTinette begged that her mistress might be carried to the 
pavilion, but the marquis overruled her, and had his niece taken 
mto her old suite of apartments in the mansion. The first 
physicians in Paris were sent for, and when thej came they 
nronounced her to be seized by a brain-fever, which promised 
io be a very terrible one. 



Lad Dreams and a Worse Waking, 133 

CHAPTER Vin. 

BAD DREAMS AND A WORSE WAKING. 

Thb stidden and melanclioly death of Gaston do Lancy cansod 
a considerable sensation tlironglioat Paris ; more especially as 
it was attributed by many to poison. By whom administered, 
or from what motive, none could guess. There was one story, 
however, circulated that was believed by some people, though 
it bore very little appearance of probability. It was reported 
that on the afternoon preceding the night on which De Lancy 
died, a stranger had obtained admission behind the scenes of 
the opera-house, and had been seen in earnest conversation with 
the man whose duty it was to provide the goblets of wine for 
the poison scene in Lucretia Borgia. Some went so far as to 
say, that this stranger had bribed the man to put the contents 
of a small packet into the bottom of the glass given on the 
stage to De Lancy. But so improbable a story was believed by 
very few, and, of course, stoutly denied by the man in question. 
The doctors attributed the death of the young man to apoplexy. 
There was no inquest held on his remains ; and at the wish of 
his mother he was buried at Bouen, and his foneral was no 
doubt a peculiarly quiet one, for no one was allowed to know 
when the ceremomal took place. Paris soon forgot its favourite. 
A few engravings of him, m one or two of his great characters, 
lingered tor some time in the windows of the fashionable print- 
shops. Brief memoirs of him appeared in several papers, and 
in one or two magazines ; and in a couple of weeks he was for- 
gotten. If he had been a great general, or a great minister, it 
IS possible that he would not have been remembered much 
longer. The new tenor had a fair complexion and blue eyes, 
and had two extra notes of falsetto. So the opera-house was as 
brilliant as ever, though there was for the time being a pre- 
rudice among opera-goers and opera-singers against Lucretia 
Borgia, and that opera was put on the snelf for the remainder 
of the season. 

A month after the death of De Lancy the physician pronotuiced 
Mademoiselle de Cervennes sufficiently recovered to be removed 
from Paris to her uncle's chateau in Normandy. Her illnesE 
had been a terrible one. For ifiany days she had been dehriouA 
Ah, who shall paint the fearfdl dreams of that delirium!— 
dreams, of the anguish of which her disjointed sentences could 
tell so little P The face of the man she had loved had haunted 
her in every phase, wearing every expression — ^now thoughtful, 
now sparkhng with vivacity, now cymcal, now melancholy ; but 
always distinct and palpable, and always before her night and 
4ay. The speue of fcer flrst weclVc.^ T\V]*tx \^Ta\ \vk^ ^^^\^ 



184 The Trail qf the Serpent 

marriage ; tlie little cliapel a few miles ont of Paris ; the old 
priest ; the bitter discovery in the Bois de Boulogne — ^the scene 
of his treachery ; the lamp-lit apartment of Monsienr de Bln- 
rosset ; the cards and the poisons. Every action of this dark 
period of her life she acted over in her disordered brain again 
and again a hundred times through the lon^ day, and a 
hundred times more through the stifl longer night. So when 
at the expiration of a month, she was strong enough to walk 
from one room into another, it was but a wreck of his proud 
and lovely heiress which met her uncle's eyes. 

The chateau of the marquis, some miles from the town of 
Oaen, was situated in a park which was as wild and unculti- 
vated as a wood. A park fall of old timber, and marshy reedy 
grounds dotted with pools of stagnant water, which in the 
good days of the old regime were beaten nightiy by the sub- 
missive peasantry, that monseigneur, the marquis nught sleep 
on his bedstead of ormolu and buhl a la Louis Quatorze, 
undisturbed by the croaking of the frogs. 

Everything around was falling into ruin; the chateau had 
been sacked, and one wing of it burnt down, in the year 1793 ; 
and the present marquis, tlien a very little boy, had fled with 
his father to the hospitable shores of England, where for more 
than twenty years of his life he had hved in poverty and 
obscurity, teaching sometimes his native language, sometimes 
mathematics, sometimes music, sometimes one thing, sometimes 
another, for his daily bread. But with the restoration of the 
Bourbons came the restoration of the marquis to title and 
fortune. A wealthy marriage with the widow of a rich Buona- 
partist restored the house of De Cevennes to its former grandeur; 
and looking now at the ^roud and stately head of that house, 
it was a difficult thing to imagine that this man had ever taught 
French, musio, and mathematics, for a few shillings a lesson, 
in the obscure academies of an Enghsh manufactunng town. 

The dreary park, which surrounded the still more dreary and 
tumble-down chateau, was white with the fallen snow, through 
which the servants, or their servants the neighbouring peasantry, 
coming backwards and forwards with some message or commis- 
»ion from the village, waded knee-deep, or well nigh lost them- 
selves in some unsuspected hollow where the white drifts had 
swept and lay collected in masses whose depth was dangerous. 
The dark oak-panelled apartments appropriated to Yalerie 
boked out upon the snow-clad wilderness ; and very dismal they 
seemed in the dying February day. 

Grim pictures of dead-and-gone branches of this haughty 

house stared and frowned from their heavy frames at the pale 

^rl^ half seated, half reclining in a greid) easy-chair in the deep 

mnbajed window, Oi^e tervibk ma^'Clad ^^^ox^ who had 



Bad Dreams and a fflurse WaJcmg. 135 

fonglib and fallen at disastrons Aginconrt, held an nplifked 
axe, and in the evening shadow it seemed to Valerie as if he 
raised it with a threatening glance beneath his heavy brows» 
which took a purpose aoid I meaning ^ the painted eyes met 
hers. And turn which way she would, the eyes of these dark 
iK>itraits seemed to follow her; eometimes threateningly, some- 
umes reproachfully, sometimes with a melancholy look fraught 
with a strange and ominous sadness that chilled her to the souL 

Logs of wood burned on the great hearth, supported by 
massive iron dogs, and their flick^ Ught falling now hera 
now there, left always the comers of the large room in shadow. 
The chill white night looking in at the high window strove with 
the fire light for mastery, and won it, so that the cheery beams 
playing bo-i)eep among the quaint oak carving of the panelled 
walls and ceiling hid themselves abashed before the chill stare 
of the cold steel-blue winter sky. The white face of the sick 
girl under this dismal light looked almost as still and lifeless as 
the face of her grandmother, in powder and patches, simpering 
down at her from the wall. She sat alone — ^no book near her, 
no sign of any womanly occupation in the great chamber, 
no friend to watch or tend her (for she had refused all com- 
panionship); she sat with Hstless hands drooping upon the 
velvet cusmons of her chair, her head thrown back, as if in utter 
abandonment of all things on the face of the wide earth, and 
her dark ejes staring straight before her out into the dead 
waste of winter snow. 

So she has sat since early morning ; so she will sit till her 
maid comes to her and leads her to hei' dreary bedchamber. 
So she sits when her uncle visits her, and tries every means in 
his power to awaken a smile, or bring one look of animation 
into that dead face. Yes, it is the face of a dead woman. 
Dead to hope, dead to love, dead to the past; still more utterly 
dead to a future, which, since it cannot restore the dead, can 
give her nothing. 

So the short February days, which seem so long to her, fade 
into the endless winter nights ; and for her the morning has no 
light, nor the darkness any shelter. The consolations of that 
holy Church, on which for ages past her ancestors have leant 
for succour as on a rock of mighty and eternal strength, she 
dare not seek. Her uncle's chaplaon, a white-haired old man 
who had nursed her in his arms a baby^, and who resides at 
the chateau, beloved and honoured by all around, comes to her 
every morning, and on each visit tries anew to win her con- 
fidence; but in vain. How can she pour into the ears of this 
good and benevolent old man her dismal storvP Surely h6 
would cast her from him wiiJh contumely and norror. Sxjxel^ 
he would teJJ her that for her there \ft ivo "te^^s SJa.^ ^-^^s^^ 



136 The Trail of the Serpent 

merciful Heaven, ready to hear the prayer of every sinner, 
would be deaf to the despairing cries of snch a guilty wretch 
as she. 

So, impenitent and despairing, she wears out the time, and 
waits for death. Sometimes she thinks of the arch tempter 
who smoothed the path of crime and misery in which she nad 
trodden, and, who, in doing so seemed so much a part of her- 
self, and so closely linked with her anguish and her revenge, 
that she often, in the weakness of her shattered mind, wondered 
if there were indeed such a person, or whether he might not 
be only the hideous incarnation of her own dark thoughts. He 
had spoken though of payment, of reward for his base services. 
If he were indeed human as her wretched self, why did he not 
come to claim his due P 

As the lonely impenitent woman pondered thus in the wintry 
dusk, her uncle entered the chamber in which she sat. 

" My dear Yalerie," he said, " I am sorry to disturb you, but 
a person has just arrived on horseback from Caen. He has 
travelled, he says, all the way from Paris to see you, and he 
knows that you will grant him an interview. I told him it 
was not likely you would do so, and that you certainly would 
not with my consent. Who can this person be who nas the 
impertinence to intrude at such a time as this? His name 
is entirely unknown to me." 

He gave her a card. She looked at it, and read aloud — 

" * Monsieur Eaymond Marolles.* The person is quite right, 
my dear uncle ; I will see him." 

" But, Yalerie ! " remonstrated the marquis. 

She looked at him, with her mother's proud Sj^anish blood 
mantling in her pale cheek. 

" My dear uncle," she said quietly, " it is agreed between us, 
is it not, that I am in all things my own mistress, and that you 
have entire confidence in me P Wnen you cease to trust me, we 
had better bid each other farewell, for we can then no longer 
live beneath the same roof." 

He looked with one imploring glance at the inflexible face, 
but it was fixed as death. 

" Tell them," she said, " to conduct Monsieur MaroUes to 
this apartment. I must see him, and alone." 

The marquis left her, and in a few moments Baymond entered 
the room, ushered in by the groom of the chambers. 

He had the old air of well-bred and fashionable indifference 
which so well became him, and carried a light gold-headed 
riding- whip in his hand. 

" Mademoiselle," he said, ** will perhaps pardon my intrusion 
of this evening, which can scarcely an.T][>rae lever, \C ^Taa mil Iw 



JBad Dreams and a Worse Walcing, 137 

pleased to remember tliat more tlian a month has elapsed aince 
a melancholy occurrence at the Eoyal Italian Opera Honse, and 
that I have some right to be impatient." 

She did not answer him immediately ; for at this moment a 
servant entered, carrying a lamp, which he placed on the table 
by her side, and afterwards drew the heavy velvet cnrtaina 
across the great window, shutting out the chill winter night. 

" Yon are very much altered, mademoiselle," said Eaymond, 
as he scrutinized the wan face under the lamp-hght. 

" That is scarcely strange," she answered, in a chilling tone. 
**I am not yet accustomed to crime, and cannot wear the 
memory of it lightiy." 

Her visitor was dusting his polished riding-boot with his 
handkerchief as he spoke. Looking up with a smile, he said, — 

" Nay, mademoiselle, I give you credit for more philosophy. 
Wliy use ugly words? Crime — poison — murder !" He paused 
between each of these three words, as if every syllable had been 
some sharp instrument — as if every time he spoke he stabbed 
her to the heart and stopped to calculate the depth of the 
wound. "'"T^here are no such words as those for beauty and 
high rank. A person far removed from our sphere offends us, 
And we sweep hun from our path. We might as well regret the 
▼enomous insect which, having stung us, we destroy." 

She did not acknowledge his words by so much as one glance 
or gesture, but said coldly, — 

"You were so candid as to confess, monsieur, when you 
served me, yonder in Paris, that you did so in the expectation of 
a reward. You are here, no doubt, to claim that reward ?" 

" He looked up at her with so strange a light in his blue eyes, 
and so singular a smile curving the dark moustache which hid 
his thin arched Hps, that in spite of herself she was startled into 
looking at him anxiously. He was determined that in the game 
they were playing she should hold no hidden cards, and he was 
therefore resolved to see her face stripped of its mask of cold 
indifference. After a minute's pause he answered her ques- 
tion, — 

" I am." 

" It is well, monsieur. "Will you be good enough to state the 
amount you claim for your set'vices ? " 

"You are determined, mademoiselle, it appears," he said, 
with the strange light still glittering in his eyes, "you are 
determined to give me credit foi none but the most mercenary 
aentiments. Suppose I do not claim any amount of money in 
repayment of my services ? " 

" Then, monsieur, I have wronged you. You are a disinte- 
rested villain, and, as such, worthy of the respect of the yikko^* 
Bat Binoe \!h\^ is the case, onr \ntev\e^ \a «l\, ^iw1. \^»3asL^&Rstr| 



\ 



188 The Trail of the Serpent 

jcm decline the reward yon liave earned so worihily, and I kivp 
tlie liononr to wish yon good evening." 

He gave a low mnsical langh. " Pardon me, mademoiselle/* 
ke said, " bnt really yonr words amnse me. * A disinterested 
villain !' Believe me, when I tell yon that disinterested villany 
is as great an impossibility as disinterested virtne. Yon are 
mistiJten, mademoiselle, bnt only as to the natnre of the reward 
I come to claim. Yon wonld confine the question to one of 
money. Cannot yon imagine that I have acted in the hope of a 
higher reward than any recompense yonr banker's book oonld 
afford me P" 

She looked at him with a pnzzled expression, bnt his face was 
hidden. He was trifling with his Hght riding-whip, and looking 
down at the hearth. After a minute's pause he hfted his head, 
and glanced at her with the same dangerous smile. 

" You cannot guess, then, mademoiselle, the price I claim for 
my services yonder P" he asked. 

" No." 

" Nay, mademoiselle, reflect." 

" It would be useless. I might anticipate your claiming half 
my fortune, as I am, in a maimer, in your power " 

" Oh, yes," he murmured softly, interrupting her, " you are, 
in a manner, in my power certainly." 

"But the possibility of your claiming from me anything 
except money has never for a moment occurred to me." 

" Mademoiselle, when first I saw you I looked at you through 
an opera-glass from my place in the stalls of the I&lian Opera. 
The glass, mademoiselle, was an excJeUent one, for it revealed 
every line and every change in your beautiful face. From my 
observation of that face I made two or three conclusions about 
your character, which I now find were not made upon false 
premises. You are impulsive, mademoiselle, but you are not 
far-seeing. You are strong in your resolutions when once vour 
mind is fixed; but that mind is easily influenced by otners. 
You have passion, genius, courage — rare and beautiful gifts 
which distinguish you from the rest of womankind ; but you 
have not that power of calculation, that inductive science, 
which never sees the effect without looking for the cause, which 
men have christened mathematics. I, mademoiselle, am a 
mathematician. As such, I sat down to play a deep and 
dangerous ^ame with you ; and as such, now that the hour hai 
come at which I can show my hand, you will see that I hold the 
Winnmg cards." 

" I cannot understand, monsieur " 

"Perhaps not, yet. When you first honoured me with an 

itttendewyou were pleased to call me * an adventurer.' Yon used 

^M expression w a term of reproacU. Slrwxs^Vi^a^^ltxe^^ 



Bad Dreams and a Worse Wahinf. 189 

held it in that light. When it ])leased Heaven, or Fato-^ 
whichever name yon please to give the abstraction — ^to throw 
me ont npon a world with which my life ha« been one :k)ng war, 
it pleased that Power to give me nothing bnt my brainy for 
weapons in the great fight. No rank, no rent-roll, neither 
mother nor father, friend nor patron. All to win, and nothing to 
lose. How mnch I had won when I first saw yon it wonld be 
hard for yon, bom in those great saloons to which I have fitmg- 
gled from the mire of the streets — ^it wonld be very hard, I say, 
for yon to gness. I entered Paris one year ago, possessed of a 
snm of money which to me was wealth, bnt which might, per- 
haps, to yon, be a month's income. I had only one object—to 
multiply that snm a hundredfold. I became, therefore, a specu- 
lator, or, as yon call it, * an adventurer.' As a speculator, I 
took my seat in the stalls of the Opera House the night I first 
saw you." 

She looked at him in utter bewilderment, as he sat in his most 
careless attitude, playing with the gold handle of his riding- 
whip, but she did not attempt to speak, and he continued, — 

"I happened to hear from a bystander that you were the 
richest woman in France. Do you know, mademoiselle, how an 
adventurer, with a tolerably handsome face and a sufficiently 
gentlemanly address, generally calculates on enriching himself P 
Or, if you do not know, can you guess P" 

** No," she muttered, looking at him now as if she were in a 
trance, and he had some strange magnetic power over her. 

" Then, mademoiselle, I must enlighten jou. The adventurer 
who does not care to grow grey and decrepit in making a fortune 
by that slow and nncertaon mode which people call * honest 
industry,' looks about him for a fortune ready made and waiting 
for him to claim it. He makes a wealthy marriage." 

** A wealthj marriage P" She repeated the words after him, 
as if mechamcally. 

** Therefore, mademoiselle, on seeing you, and on hearing the 
extent of your fortune, I said to myself, * That is the woman I 
must marry 1'" 

"Monsieur!" She started indignantly from her reclining 
attitude ; but the effort was too much for her shattered frame, 
and she sank back exhausted. 

" Nay, mademoiselle, I did not say * That is the woman I will 
marry,' but rather, * That is the woman I must try to marry ; ' for 
as yet, remember, I did not hold one card in the great game I 
had to play. I raised my glass, and looked long at your face. 
A very beautiful face, maaemoiselle, as you and your glass fiave 
lonff decided between you. I was— j)ardon me — disappointed. 
Had you been an ugly woman, mv chances wonld ha.^^Vi^sK^^s^ 
rnnoh Mter, M^ you be^u dianguieaL \)^ ^>K»iXKv~^ NiOoa^ ^ 




no The Trail of ike Serpent 

been but the faintest elevation of one white shoulder, prondei; 
perhaps, than its fellow) — ^had your hair been tinged with even 
a suspicion of the ardent hue which prejudice condemns, it 
would have been a wonderful advantage to me. Yain hope to 
win you by flattery, when even the truth must sound like 
flattery. And then, again, one glance told me that you were 
no pretty simpleton, to be won by a stratagem, or bewildered by 
romantic speeches. And yet, mademoiselle, I did not despair. 
You were beautiful ; you were impassioned. In your veins ran 
the purple blood of a nation whose children's love and hate are 
both akin to madness 1 Tou had, in short, a soul, and you 
might have a secret !" 

"Monsieur!" 

"At any rate it would be no lost time to watch you. I 
therefore watched. Two or three gentlemen were talking to you ; 
you did not listen to them ; you were asked the same question 
three times, and on the second repetition of it you started, and 
replied as by an efibrt. You were weary, or indifferent. No\^, 
as I have told you, mademoiselle, in the science of mathematics 
we acknowledge no effect without a cause ; there was a cause, 
then, for this distraction on your part. In a few minutes the 
curtain rose. You were no longer absent-minded. Elvino came 
on the stage — you were all attention. You tried, mademoiselle, 
not to appear attentive; but your mouth, the most flexible 
feature in your face, betrayed you. The cause, then, of your 
late distraction was Elvino, otherwise the fashionable tenor, 
Gaston de Lancy." 

" Monsieur, for pity's sake ** she cried imploringly. 

** This was card number one. My chances were looking up. 
In a few minutes I saw you throw your bouquet on the stage 
I also saw the note. You had a secret, mademoiselle, and 1 
possessed the clue to it. My cards were good ones. The rest 
must be done by good plav. I knew I was no bad player, and I 
sat down to the game witn the determination to rise a winner." 

" Finish the recital of your villany, monsieur, I beg — ^it really 
becomes wearisome." Sue tried as she spoke to imitate his own 
indifference of manner ; but she was utterly subdued and broken 
down, and waited for him to continue as the victim might wait 
the pleasure of the executioner, and with as little thought of 
opposing him* 

" Then, mademoiselle, I have little more to say, except to 
claim my reward. That reward is — your hand." He said this 
as if he never even dreamt of the possibili^ of a refusal. 

"Are you mad, monsieur?" She had for sometime antici- 

ted this climax, and she felt how utterly powerless she was 

ibe hands of an unscrupulous villain. Bow unscrupulous 

did not yet knaWf 



A Marriage in High Lif^, 141 

" Nay, mademoiselle, remember ! A man has been poisoJied, 
Easy enough to set snspicion, whicli has already pointed to foul 
play, more fully at work. Easy enough to prove a certain secret 
marriage, a certain midnight visit to that renowned and not too 
highly-respected chemist, Monsieur Blurosset. Easy enough 
to produce the order for five thousand francs signed by Made- 
moiselle de Oevennes. And should these proofs not carry with 
them conviction,! am the fortunate possessor of a wine-glass 
emblazoned with the arms of your house, in which still remains 
the sediment of a poison well known to the more distinguished 
members of the medical science. I think, mademoiselle, these 
few evidences, added to the powerful motive revealed by youf 
secret maiTiage, would be quite sufficient to set every newspaper 
in France busy with the details of a murder unprecedented in 
the criminal annals of this country. But, mademoiselle, I have 
wearied you ; you are pale, exhausted. I have no wish to hurry 
you into a rash acceptance of my offer. Think of it, ana 
to-morrow let me hear your decision. Till then, adieu." Ho 
lose as he spoke. 

She bowed her head in assent to his last proposition, and he 
left her. 

Did he know, or did he guess, that there might be another 
reason to render her acceptance of his hand possible ? Did he 
think that even his obscure name might be a shelter to her in 
days to come P 

Valerie, Valerie, for ever haunted by the one beloved crea- 
ture gone out of this world never to return 1 For ever pursued 
by the image of the love which never was — which at its best and 
brightest was — ^but a false dream. Most treacherous when most 
tender, most cruel when most kind, most completely false when 
it most seemed a holy truth. Weep, Valerie, for the long years 
to come, whose dismal burden shall for ever be, " Oh, never, 
never morel" 



CHAPTER rS. 

▲ UAEEIAGE IN HIGH LIPB. 

A MONtH from the time at which this interview took place, 
everyone worth speaking of in Paris is busy talking of a sin- 
gular marriage about to be celebrated in that smaller and upper 
circle which forms the apex of the fashionable pyramid. The 
niece and heiress of the Marquis de Oevennes is about to marry 
a gentleman of whom the Faubourg St. Germain knows very 
little. But though the faubourg knows very little, the fau- 
bourg has, notwiuistanding, a jp^reat deal to say ; perhaps all 
the more fiQm the very slight roundatioiL \^ \^aA ^qtl S^a ^8S«^^ 



Itf The Trail of the Serpent. 

tions. Tlias, on Tuesday the faabonrg afHrms tliat Monsi6<:i7 
Bajmond MaroUes is a German, and a political refugee. On 
Wednesday the faubourg rescinds : he is not a Grerman, he Ib a 
Frenchman, the son of an illegitimate son of Philip Egalitd, 
and, consequently, nephew to the kin^, by whose influence the 
marriage has been negotiated. The faubourg, in short* has so 
many accounts of Monsieur Raymond Marolles, that it is quite 
unnecessary for the Marquis de Oevennes to give any account 
of hiTTi whatever, and he alone, therefore, is silent on the subject. 
Monsieur Marolles is a very worthy man — a gentleman, of 
course — and his niece is very much attached to him; beyond 
this, the marquis does not condescend to enlighten his numerous 
acquaintance. How much more might the faubourg have to 
say if it oould for one moment imagine the details of a stormy 
scene which took place between the uncle and niece at the 
ch&teau in Normandy, when, kneeling before the cross, Yalerie 
swore that there was so dreadful a reason for this strange mar- 
riage, that, did her uncle know it, he would himself kneel at her 
feet and implore her to eacrifico herself to save the honour of 
her noble house. What might have been suggested to the mind 
of the marquis by these dart hints no one knew; but he ceased 
to oppose tne marriage of the only scion of one of the highest 
famihes in France with a man who could tell nothing of him- 
self, except that he had received the education of a gentleman, 
and had a will strong enough to conquer fortune. 

IPhe religious solemnization of the marriage was performed 
with great magnificence at the Madeleine. Wealth, rank, and 
fashion were equalljr represented at the dejeuner which suc- 
ceeded the ceremomal, and Monsieur Marolles found himself 
the centre of a circle of the old nobility of France. It would 
have been very difficult, even for an attentive observer, to dis- 
cover one triumphant flash in those light blue eyes, or one 
Bmile playing round the thin lips, by which a stranger might 
divine that the bridegroom of to-day was the winner of a deep- 
laid and villanous scheme. He bore his good fortune, in fact, 
with such well-bred indifierence, that the m.ubourg immediately 
set him down as a great man, even if not one of the set which 
was the seventh heaven in that Parisian paradise. And it 
would have been equally diflicult for any observer to read the 
secret of the pale but beautiful face of the bride. Cold, serene, 
and haughty, she smiled a stereotyped smile upon all, and 
showed no more agitation during the ceremony than she might 
have done had she been personating a bnde in an acted 
eharade. 

It may be, that the hour when any event, however startling, 
however painfnl, could move her from this cold serenity, hali 
for 'ever passed away. It may be, that having outlived all the 



A Marriage in High Life, 148 

iLappiness of her life, she liaxi almost outlived the faculty of 
feeling or of suffering, and must henceforth exist only for the 
world — a distinguished actress in the great comedy of fashion- 
able life. 

She is standing in a window filled with exotics, which form a 
great screen of dark green leaves and tropical flowers, through 
which the blue spring sky looks in, clear, bright, and cold. She 
is talking to an elderly duchess, a languid and rather faded . 
personage, dressed in ruby velvet, and equally distinguished for 
the magnificence of her lace and the artful composition of her 
complexion, which id as near an approach to nature as can be 
achieved by pearl-powder. " And you leave France in a month, 
to take possession of your estates in South America P" she 
asks. 

** In a month, yes," says Yalerie, playing with the large dark 
leaf of a magnoKa. « I am amdous to see my mother's native 
country. I am tired of Paris." 

"EeallyP You surprise me!" The languid duchest cannot 
conceive the possibihty of any one being tired of a Parisian 
existence. She is deep in her tnirty-fourth platonic attachment 
— ^the object, a celebrated novelist of the transcendental school ; 
and as at this moment she sees him entering the room by a 
distant door, she strolls away from the window, carrying ner 
perfumed complexion through the delighted crowd. 

Perhaps Monsieur Raymond Marolles, standing talking to an 
old Buonapartist general, whose breast is one constellation of 
stars and crosses, had only been waiting for this opportunity, 
for he advanced presently with soft step and graceful carriage 
towards the ottoman on which his bnde had seated herself. 
She was trifling with her costly bridal bouquet as the bridegroom 
approached her, plucking the perfumed petals one by one, and 
Bcattering them on the ground at her feet in very wantonness. 

" Valerie," he said, bending over her, and speaking in tones 
which, by reason of the softness of their intonation, might have 
been tender, but for the want of some diviner melody from 
within the soul of the man ; not having which, they had the 
false jingle of a spurious coin. 

The spot in which the bride was seated was so sheltered by 
the flowers and the satin hangings which shrouded the win- 
dow, that it formed a Httle alcove, shut out from the crowded 
room. 

" Yalerie !" he repeated ; and finding that she did not answer^ 
he laid his white ungloved hand upon her jewelled wrist. 

She started to her feet, drawmg herself up to her fullest 
height, and shaking off his hand with a gesture which, had he 
Veen the foulest and most loathsome TeptUft Qisa2<^^bN% Ts^Riik H^ 



r 



144 The Trail of the Serpent 

earth's wide face, could not have bespoken a more intense ablior« 
rence. 

" There cotdd not be abetter time than this," she said, " to say 
urhat I have to say. You may perhaps imagine that to be com- 
pelled to speak to yon at aU is so abhorrent to me, that I shall 
ftse the fewest words I can, and use those words in their very 
fullest sense. You are the incarnation of misery and crime. 
As such you can perhaps understand how deeply I hate you. 
You are a villain ; and so mean and despicable a viUain, that 
even in the hour of your success you are a creature to be pitied; 
since from the very depth of your degradation you lack the 
power to know how much you are degraded ! As such I scorn 
and loathe you, as we loathe those venemous reptiles which, 
from their noxious qualities, defy our power to handle and exter- 
minate them." 

"And as your husband, madame?" Her bittter words dis- 
composed him so little, that he stooped to pick up a costly flower 
which in her passion she had thrown down, and placed it care- 
fully in his button-hole. " As your husband, madame ? The 
state of your feelings towards me m that character is perhaps a 
question more to the point." 

" You are right," she said, casting all assxmiption of indiffer- 
ence aside, and trembling with scornful rage. "That is tho 
question. Your speculation has been a successful one." 

" Entirely successful," he replied, stiQ arranging the flower in 
faiflooat. 

" You have the command of my fortune " 

" A fortune which many princes might be proud to possess," 
he interposed, looking at the blossom, not at her. He may pos- 
sibly have been a brave man, but he was not distinguished for 
looking in people's faces, and he did not care about meeting her 
eyes to-day. 

" But if you think the words whose sacred import has been 
prostituted by us this day have any meaning for you or me; 
if you think there is a iacquey or a groom in this vast city, a 
ragged mendicant standing at a churdi-door whom I would not 
sooner cad my husband than the wretch who stands beside me 
now, you neither know me nor my sex. My fortune you are 
welcome to. Take it, squander it, scatter it to the winds, spend 
it to the last farthing on the low vices that are pleasure to such 
men as you. But dare to address me with but one word from 
your false lips, dare to approach me so near as to touch but the 
hem of my dress, and that moment I proclaim the story of our 
marriage from first to last. Believe me when I say — and if 
you look me in the face you will believe me — the restraining 
influence is very slight that holds me back from standing now 

the centre of this assembly to proclaim myself a vile ana cruel 



Animal Magnetism. 145 

murderess, and yon my tempter aud accomplice* Believe me 
when 1 tell yon that it needs bnt one look of j>t)^ u) provoke 
me to blazon this hideons secret, and cry its details in the very 
market-place. Beheve this, and rest contented with the wages 
of yonr work.*' 

Exhausted by her passion, she sank into her seat. Raymond 
looked at her with a supercilious sneer. He despised her for 
this sudden outbreak of rage and hatred, for he felt how much 
his calculating brain and icy temperament made him her supe- 
rior. 

"You are somewhat hasty, madame, in your conclusions. 
Who said I was discontented with the wages of my work, when 
for those wages alone I have played the game in which, as you 
say, I am the conqueror ? For tne rest, I do not think I am the 
man to break my heart for love of any woman breathing, as I 
never quite understood what this same weakness of the brain, 
which men have christened love, really is ; and even were the 
light of dark eyes necessary to my happiness, I need scarcely 
tell you, madame, that beauty is very indulgent to a man with 
such a fortune as I am master of to-day. There is nothing on earth 
to prevent our agreeing remarkably well; and perhaps this 
marriage, which you speak of so bitterly, may be as happy as 
many other unions, which, were I Asmodeus and you my pupil, 
we could look down on to-day through the housetops of this 
good city of Paris." 

I wonder whether Monsieur Marolles was right P I wonder 
whether this thrice-sacred sacrament, ordained by an Almighty 
Power for the glory and the happiness of the earth, is ever, by 
any chance, profaned and changed into a bitter mockery or a 
wicked lie ? Whether, by any hazard, these holy words were 
ever used in any dark hour of this world's history, to join such 
people as had been happier far asunder, though they had been 
parted in their graves; or whether, indeed, this solemn cere- 
monial has not so often united such people, with a chain no time 
has power to wear or lengthen, that it has at last, unto some 
ill-directed minds, sunk to the level of a pitiful and worn-out 
farce? 



CHAPTER X. 

ANIMAL MAGNETISM. 



Neabit a month has passed since this strange marriage, and 
Monsieur Blurosset is seated at his little green-covered table, 
the lamp-hght falling full upon the outspread pack of cards, 
over which the blue spectacles bend witU tha «»^saa yq^rsc^^ "esi^ 

- ■ ^ ■■ ■ ^ I 



146 The Trail of the Serpent 

eonoentraied ^ize as on tHe night wlien the fate of YalcTie 
hnng on the hps of the professor of chemistry and pasteboard. 
Every now and then, with light and careful fingers, Monsieur 
Blurosset changes the position of some card or cards. Some- 
times he throws himself back in his chair and thinks deeply. 
The expressionless month, which betrays do secrets, tells no- 
thing of the nature of his thoughts. Sometimes he makes 
notes on a long slip of paper; rows of figures, and problems in 
algebra, over which he ponders long. By-and-by, for Hie first 
time, he looks up and hstens. 

His Httle apartment has two doors. One, which leads out on 
to the staircase ; a second, which communicates with his bed- 
chamber. This door is open a very Httle, but enough to show 
that there is a feeble light burning within the chamber. It is 
in the direction of this door that the blue spectacles are fixed 
when Monsieur Blurosset suspends his calculations in order to 
listen; and it is to a sound within this room that he listens 
intently. 

That sound is the laboured and heavy breathing of a man. 
The room is tenanted. 

" Good," says Monsieur Blurosset, presently, ** the respiration 
b certainly more regular. It is really a most wonderful case." 

As he says this, he looks at his watch. " Five minutes past 
eleven — ^time for iiie dose,'* he mutters. 

He goes to the Httle cabinet from which he took the drug he 
gave to Valerie, and busies himself with some bottles, from 
which he mixes a draught in a small medicine-glass ; he holds 
it to the light, puts it to his Hps, and then passes with it into 
the next roonu 

There is a sound as if the person to whom he gave the medi- 
cine made some faint resistance, but in a few minutes Monsieur 
Blurosset emerges from the room carrying the empty glass. 

He reseats himself before the green table, and resumes hia 
contemplation of the cards. Presently a bell rings. " So late," 
mutters Monsieur Blurosset ; " it is most Hkcly some one for 
me." He rises, sweeps the cards into one pack, and going over 
to the door of his bedroom, shuts its softly. When he has done 
so, he listens for a moment with his ear close to the woodwork. 
I'here is not a sound of the breathing within. 

He has scarcely done so when the bell rings for the second 
time. He opens the door communicating witli the staircase, 
and admits a visitor. The visitor is a woman, very plainly 
JresRcd, and thickly veiled. 

'* IMonsieur Blurosset? " f lu says, inquinagly. 

"The same, niadame. P »' enter, and be good enough to be 

seated." He hand^. her : onair at a little distance from the 

green table, and as tar away as he can place it from "jhe door of 



Animal Magnetism. 147 

tbe bedchamber : sbe sits down, and as be appears to wait for 
her to speak, she says, — 

" I have heard of yonr fame, monsieur, and come " 

" Nay, madame," he says, interrupting her, " you can raise 
your veil if you will. I perfectly remember you ; I never forget 
voices. Mademoiselle de Cevennes." 

There is no shade of impertinence in his manner as he says 
this ; he speaks as though he were merely stating a simple fact 
which it IS as well for ner to know. He has the air, in ell he 
does or says, of a scienti^c man who has no existence out of the 
region of science. 

Valerie — for it is indeed she — ^raises her veiL 

" Monsieur," she says, "you are candid with mo, and it will 
}ye the best for me to be frank with you. I am very unhappy^— I 
have been so for some months past ; and I shall be so until my 
dying day. One reason alone has prevented my coming to you 
long ere this, to offer you half my fortune for such another drug 
as that which you sold to me some time past. You may judge, 
then, that reason is a very powerful one, since, though death 
alone can give me peace, I yet do not wish to die. But I wish to 
have at my command a means of certain death. I may never 
use it at all : I swear never to use it on anyone but myself!" 

All this time the blue spectacles have been fixed on her face, 
and now Monsieur Blurosset interrupts her—* 

" And now for such a drug, mademoiselle, you would offer me 
a large sum of money?" he asks. 

" I would, monsieur." 

" I cannot sell it you," he says, as quietly as though he were 
speaking of some unimportant tnfle. 

" You cannot ? " she exclaims. 

"No, mademoiselle. I am a man absorbed entirely in the 
pursuit of science. My life has been so long devoted to science 
only, that perhaps I may have come to hold everything beyond 
the circle of my little laboratory too lightly. You asked, me 
some time since for a poison, or at least you were introduced to 
me by a pupil of mine, at whose request I sold you a drug. I 
had been twenty years studying the properties of that drug. I 
may not know them fully yet, but I expect to do so before this 
year is out. I gave it to you, and, for all I know to the con- 
trary, it may in your hands have done some mischief." He 
pauses here and looks at her for a moment ; but she has borne 
the knowledge of her crime so long, and it has become so much 
a part of her, that she does not flinch under his scrutiny. 

" I placed a weapon in your hands," he continues, "and I had 
no right to do so. I never thought of this at that time ; but I 
have thought of it since. For the rest, I hav^ wci \s^^«ys£fi>s2B&^ 
to sell yon the drug you ask for. "M-OTift-j \a ol\^«i^<^^iSfcVi^*^^t|| 



148 The Trail of the Serpent. 

except in the necessary expenses of tlie cliemicals I nse. These" 
— he points to the cards — " give me enough for those expenses ; 
beyond those, my wants amount to some few francs a week." 

" Then yon will not sell me this drug P You are determined ?'* 
she asks. 

** Quite determined." 

She shrugs her shoulders. "As you please. There is always 
some river within reach of the wretched ; and you may depend, 
fiionsieur, that they who cannot support life will find a means 
of death. I will wish you good evening." 

She is about to leave tne room, wnen she stops, with her 
hand upon the lock of the door, and turns round. 

She stands for a few minutes motionless ani silent, holding 
the handle of the door, and with her other hand upon her heart. 
Monsieur Blurosset has the faintest shadow of a look of surprise 
in his expressionless countenance. 

** I don't know what is the matter with mo to-night," she 
says, " but something seems to root me to this spot. I cannot 
leave this room." 

'* You are ill, mademoiselle, perhaps. Let me give you some 
restorative." 

" No, no, I am not ill." 

Again she is silent ; her eyes are fixed, not on the chemist, 
but with a stranj^e vacant gaze upon the wall before her. Sud- 
denly she asks him, — 

** I)o you believe in animal magnetism P" 

" Madame, I have spent half my lifetime ir trying to answer 
that question, and I can only answer it now by nalves. Rome- 
times no ; sometimes yes." ^ 

•* Do you bolioye it possible for one soul to be gifted with a 
mysterious prescience of the emotions of another soul P — to be 
sad wlion that is sad, though utterly unconscious of any cause 
for sadness ; and to rejoice when that is happy, having no reason 
for rojoioingP" 

" 1 cannot answer your question, madamo, because it involves 
another, I never yet have discovered what the soul really is. 
Animal magnetism, if it ever become a science, will be a material 
Moionco, and the soul escapes fram all material dissection." 

*• Do you boliovo, then, tliat by some subtle influence, whose 
njvt.un> i« unknown to us, we may have a strange consciousness 
of iho im^sonoo or the approach of some people, conveyed to us 
i>y i\(ntnor the hearing nor tlie sight, but rather as if we fell 
thai thoy wore near P " 

•* Vm* teliovo Uiis i^ossiblo, madamo, or you would not ask th€ 

" IV'rhupti. I have somctimos thoucht that I had this con^ 
fty*t>M«iiuf«4 but it wlatod to a XW80U wno is dead-- — " 



Animal JiTagnetism 119 

*Ycs. madame." 

"And — ^you will think me mad; Heaven knows, I think 
myself so — ^I feel as if tliat person were near me to-night." 

The chemist rises, and, going over to her, feels her pnlse. It 
is rapid and intermittent. She is evidently violentlv agitated, 
though she is trjring with her utmost power to control kerself. 

"But you say that this person is dead ?" ha asks. 

** Yes ; he died some months since." 

" You know that there are no such things as ghosta P** 

" I am perfectly convinced of that ! " 

" And yet— P " he asks. 

" And yet I feel as though the dead were near me to-night. 
Tell me — there is no one in this room but ourselves ? " 

" No one." 

** And that door — it leads " 

" Into the room in which I sleep." 

** And there is no one there P " she asks. 

** No one. Let me give you a sedative, madame : you are cer- 
tainly ill." 

" No, no, monsieur ; you are very good. I am still weak from 
the effects of a long ilfiiess. That weakness may be the cause 
of my silly fancies of to-night. To-morrow I leave France, per- 
haps for ever." 

She leaves him ; but on the steep dark staircase she pauses 
for a moment, and seems irresolute, as if half determined to 
retura : then she hurries on, and in a minute is in the street. 

She takes a circuitous route towards the house in which shi 
lives. So plainly dressed, and thickly veiled, no one stops tt 
notice her as she walks along. 

Her husband, Monsieur Marolles, is engaged at a dinner given 
by a distinguished member of the chamber of peers. Decidedly 
he has held winning cards in the game of life. And she, for 
ever haunted bv the past, wiijx weary step goes onward to a daarlK 
iLsd aiikacwn nit^iro. 



NAPOLEON THE GEEAT. 



CHAPTER L 

THE BOY FROM SLOPPERTON. 

Eight years have passed since the trial of Richard Marwood, 
How have those eight years been spent by " Daredevil Dick ? *' 

In a small room a few feet square, in the County Lunatic 
Asylum, fourteen miles from the town of Slopperton, with no 
human being's companionship but that of a grumpy old deaf 
keeper, and a boy, nis assistant — for eight monotonous years 
this man's existence has crept slowly on ; always the same : the 
same food, the same hours at which that food must be eaten, the 
same rules and regulations for every action of his inactive life. 
Think of this, and pity the man sumamed '* Daredevil Dick," 
and once the maddest and merriest creature in a mad and merry 
circle. Think of the daily walk in a great square flagged yam 
— ^the solitary walk, for he is not allowed even the fellowship of 
the other lunatics, lest the madness which led him to commit an 
awful crime should again break out, and endanger the Hves of 
those about him. During eight long years he has counted every 
stone in the flooring, every flaw and every crack in each of those 
stones. He knows the shape of every shadow that falls upon 
the whitewashed wall, and can, at all seasons of the year, telJ 
the hour by the falling of it. He knows that at such a time on 
a summer's evening the shadows of the iron bars of the window 
will make long black lines across the ground, and mount and 
mount, dividing the wall as if it were in panels, till they meet, 
and absorbing ''^ifcogether the declining light, surround and 
absorb him too, -^ ^^ he is once more alone in the darkness. He 
knows, too, that at such a time on the ^ey winter's morning 
these same shadows will be the fii'st indications of the coming 
light ; that, from the thick gloom of the dead night they will 
break out upon the wall, with strips of glimmering day between, 
only enough like light to show the blackness of the snade. He 
has sometimes been mad enough and wretched enough to pray 
that these shadows might fall differently, that the very order of 
nature might be reversed, to break this bitter and deadly mono- 



The Boy from Slopperton, 161 

tony. He has soinetiines prayed that, looking up, he might see 
a great fire in the sky, and know that the world was at an end 
How often he has prayed to die, it would be difficult to say. At 
one time it was his omy prayer ; at one time he did not pray at 
all. He has been permitted at intervals to see his mother ; but 
her visits, though he has counted the days, hours, and even 
minutes between them, have only left him more despondent than 
ever. She brings so much with her into his lonely prison, so 
much memory of a joyous past, of freedom, of a happy home, 
whose happiness he did his best in his wild youth to destroy ; 
the memory, too, of that careless youth, its boon companions, 
its devoted friends. She brings so much of all this back to him 
by the mere fact of her presence, that she leaves behind her the 
blackness of a despair far more terrible than the most terrible 
death. She represents to him the outer world ; for she is the 
only creature belonging to it who ever crosses the threshold of 
his prison. The asylum chaplain, the asylum doctor, the keepers 
and the officials belon^ng to the asylum — all these are part and 
parcel of this great prison-house of stone, brick, and mortar, and 
seem to be about as capable of feeling for him, listening to him, 
or understanding him, as the stones, bricks, and morStr them- 
selves. Routine is the ruler of this great prison ; and if this 
wretched insane criminal cannot live by rules and regulations, 
he must die according to them, and be buried by them, and so be 
done with, out of the way ; and his little room, No. 35, will be 
ready for some one else, as wicked, as dangerous, and as unfor- 
txmate as he. 

During the earlier part of his imprisonment the idea had 
pervaded the asylum that as he had been found guilty of 
committing one murder, he might, very likely, find it necessary 
to his peculiar state of mind to commit more murders, and 
would probably find it soothing to his feelings to assassinato 
anybody who might come in his way any morning before 
breakfast. The watch kept upon him was therefore for some 
time very strict. He was rather popular at first in the asylum, 
as a distinguished public character; and the keepers, though a 
little shv of attending upon him in their proper persons, were 
extremely fond of peering in at him through a Httle oval open- 
ing in the upper panel of the door of his cell. They also 
brought such visitors as came to improve their minds by going 
over the hospital for the insane to have a special and private 
view of this maniacal murderer ; and they generally received an 
extra donation from the sight-seers thus gratified. Even the 
lunatics themselves were interested in the supposed assassin. 
A. gentleman, who claimed te be the Emperor of the Grerman 
Ocean and the Chelsea "Waterworks, was very anxious to sea 
him, as he had received a despatch ixcTCL\aa Tssas^sJ^Kt <il \^<5^ 



-J 



152 The Trail of the Serpent 

informing him that Richard Marwood had red ha'T, and he 
particularlj wished to confirm this intelligence, or to give the 
minister his conge. 

Another highly-respectable person, whose case was before 
the House of Commons, and who took minntes of it every day 
on a slate, with a bit of slate pencil which he wore attached to 
his button-hole by a string, and which also served him as a 
toothpick — the slate being mtrusted to a keeper who forwarded 
it to the electric telegraph, to be laid on the table of the House, 
and brought home, washed clean, in half an hour, which was 
always done to the minute; — this gentleman also sighed for an 
introduction to poor Dick, for Maria Martin had come to him 
in a vision all the way from the Ked Bam, to tell him that the 
prisoner was his first cousin, through the marriage of his uncle 
with the third daughter of Henry the Eighth's seventh wife ; 
and he considered it only natural and proper that such near 
relations should become intimately acquainted with each other. 
A lady, who pronounced herself to be the only child of the 
Pope of Rome, by a secret union with a highly-respectable 
youngperson, heiress to a gentleman connected with the muffin 
trade somewhere about Drury Lane, fell in love off-hand with 
Richard, from description alone ; and begged one of the keepers 
to let him know that she had a clue to a subterranean passage, 
which led straight from the asylum to a baker's shop in Little 
Russell Street, Covent Garden, a distance of some two hundred 
and fifty miles, and had been originally constructed by William 
the Conqueror for the convenience of his visits to Fair Rosamond 
when the weather was bad. The lady begged her messenger to 
inform Mr. Marwood that if he liked to unite his fortune with 
hers, they could escape by this passage, and set up in the muffin 
business — unless, indeed, his Holiness of the tnple crown in- 
vitea them over to the Vatican, which perhaps, under existing 
circumstances, was hardly likely. 

But though a wonder, which elsewhere would only last ninp 
days, may in the dreary monotony of such a place as this, 
endure for more than nine weeks, it must stUl die out at last. 
So at last Richard was forgotten by every one except his heart- 
broken mother, and the keeper and hoj attending upon him. 

His peculiar hallucination being his fancy that he was the 
Emperor Napoleon the First, was, of course, little wonder in a 
place where every wretched creature fancied himself some one 
or something which he was not ; where men and women walked 
about in long disjointed dreams, which had no waking but in 
death; where once bright and gifted human beings found a 
wild and imbecile happiness in crowns of straw, and decorations 
pf paper and rags; wnich was more sad to see than the worst 
iaiaery a conaciousnesa of their state might have brought them. 



The Boy from Slopperian, 153 

At first, Ricliard liad talked wildly of his fancied g^raatness, 
Lad called his little room the rock of St. Helena, and his keeper, 
Sir Hudson Lowe. But he grew quieter day by day, and at 
last never spoke at all, except in answer to a question. And so 
on, for eight long years. 

In the autumn of the eighth year he fell ill. A strange 
illness. Perhaps scarcely to be called an illness. Eather a 
dying out of the last light of hope, and an utter abandonment 
of himself to despair. Yes, that was the name of the disease 
under which the nigh and bold spirit of Daredevil Dick sank 
at last. Despair. A curious disease. Not to be cured by 
rules and regulations, however salutary those rules might be ; 
not to be cured even by the Board, which was supposed to be 
in a manner omnipotent, and to be able to cure anything in 
one sitting; not to be cured certainly by the asylum doctor, 
who found Richard's case very difficult to deal with — more 
especiallv difficult since there was |no positive physical malady 
to attack. There was a physical malady, because the patient 
gr-ew every day weaker, lost appetite, and was compelled to 
take to his bed ; but it was the malady of the mind acting on 
the body, and the cure of the last could only be effiicted by the 
cure of the fii'st. 

So Richard lay upon his narrow little couch, watching the 
shadows on the bare wall, and the clouds that passed across the 
patch of sky which he could see through the barred window 
opposite his bed, through long sunny days, and moonlight 
nights, throughout the month of September, 

Thus it happened that one dull afternoon, on looking up, ho 
gaw a darker cloud than usual hurry by; and in its train 
another, darker still; then a black troop of ragged followers; 
and then such a shower of rain came down, as he could not 
remember having seen throughout the time of his captivity. 
But this heavy shower was only the beginning of three weeks' 
rainy weather ; at the end of which time the country round was 
flooded in every direction, and Richard heard his keeper tell 
another man that the river outside the i)rison, which usually 
ran within twenty feet of the wall on one side of the great yard, 
was now swollen to such a degree as to wash the stonework of 
this wall for a considerable height. 

The day Richard heard this he heard another dialogue, which 
took place in the passage outside his room. He was lying on 
his bed, thinking of the bitterness of his fate, as he had thought 
so many hundred times, through so many hundred days, till he 
had become, as it were, the slave of a dreadful habit of his mind, 
and was obliged to go over the same ground for ever and ever, 
whether he would or no — he was lying thus, when he hew: L \aask 
keeper saj^ — 



154 The Trail of the Sorpeni. 

*' To think a4B how the discontented little beast ^onld take 
and go and better hisself at snch a time as this here, when 
there ain't a boy to be had for love or money — ^which three 
shillings a week is all the Board wiU give — as will come here to 
take care of him." 

Bichard knew himself to be the "him" alluded to. The 
doctor had ordered the boy to sit np with him at night daring 
the latter part of his illness, and it had been something of a 
relief to him, in the blank monotony of his life, to watch this 
boy's attempts to keep awake, and ms fortive games at marbles 
ander the bed when he thought Eichard was not looking, or to 
Usten to his snoring when he slept. 

** Yon see, boys as is as bold as brass many ways — as would 
run under 'osses' heads, and like it; as thinks it fun to run 
acroc« the railroad when there's a /texpress /engine a comin', 
and as will amuse theirselves for the hour together with 
twopen'orth of gunpowder and a lighted candle — still feels 
timersome about sittm' up alone of nights with him," said the 
keeper. 

"TBut he's harmless enough, ain't heP" asked the other. 

" Harmless ! Lord bless his poor hinnercent 'art I there ain't 
no more harm in him nor a baby. But it's no use a savin' that, 
for there ain't a boy far or near what'll come and help to take 
care of him." 

A minute or two after this, the keeper came into Richard's 
room with the regulation basin of broth — a panacea, as it was 
supposed, for all ills, from water on the brain to rheumatism. 
As ne put the basin down, and was about to go, Bichard spoke 
to him, — 

"The boy is going, thenP" 

" Y«s, sir." The keeper treated him with great respect, for 
he had been handsomely feed by Mrs. Marwood on every visit 
throughout the eirfjt years of her son's imprisonment. " Yes, 
he's a-goin', sir. The place ain't lively enough for him, if you 
please. I'd lively him, if I was the Board I Ain't he had the 
run of the passages, and half an hour every night to enjoy his- 
self in the yard ! He's a goin' into a doctor's service. He says 
it'll be jolly, earring out medicine for other people to take, and 
gloating over the thought of 'em a-taking it. 

" And you can't get another boy to come here P " 

" Well, you see, sir, the boys about here don't seem to take 
kindly to the place. So I've got orders from the Board to put 
an advertisement in one of tiie Slopperton papers; and I'm 
ft-goin' to do it this afternoon. So yotrll have a change in your 
attendance, maybe, sir, before the week's out." 

Nothing could better prove the utter dreariness and deso- 
lation of Kichard's life than that such a thing as the probable 



The Boy from Slopperton, 155 

tfiiTai of a strafe boy to wait upon him seemed an event 
of importance. He coiQd not help, though he despised him- 
self for his folly, speculating npon the possible appearance 
of the new boy. Would he be big or little, stout or thinP 
What would be the colour of his eyes and hairP Would his 
voice be gruff or squeaky ; or would it be that peculiar and 
uncertain voice, common to over-grown boys, which is gruff one 
minute and squeaky the next, and always is in one of these 
extiemes when you most expect it to be in the other? 

But these speculations were of course a part of his madness ; 
for it is not to be supposed that a long course of solitary confine- 
ment could produce any dreadful change in the mind of a sane 
man ; or surely no human justices or lawgivers would ever 
adjudge so terrible a punishment to any creature, human as 
themselves, and no more liable to error than themselves. 

So Richard, lying on his little bed through the long rainy 
days, awaits the departure of his old attendant and the coming 
of a new one ; and in the twilight of the third day he still lies 
looking up at the square grated window, and countmg the drops 
falling from the eaves — for there is at last some cessation in the 
violence of the rain. He knows it is an autumn evening ; but 
he has not seen the golden red of one fallen leaf, or the subdued 
colouring of one autumnal flower : he knows it is the end of 
Septembsr, because his keeper has told him so ; and when his 
window is open, he can hear sometimes, far away, deadened by 
the rainy, atmosphere as well as by the distance, the occasional 
report of some sportsman's gun. He thinks, as he hears this, 
of a September many years ago, when he and a scapegrace 
companion took a fortnight's shooting in a country wnere to 
brusn against a bush, or to tread upon the long grass, was 
to send a feathered creature whirring up in the clear air. He 
remembers the merry pedestrian journey, the roadside inns, the 
pretty barmaids, the joint purse; the blue smoke from two 
short meerschaum pipes curling up to the grey morning sky; 
the merry laughter from two happy hearts ringing out upon the 
chill morning air. He remembers encounters with savage game- 
leepers, of such ferocious principle and tender consciences as 
even the administration of a half-crown could not lull to sleep ; 
he remembers jovial evenings in the great kitchens of old inns, 
where unknown quantities of good old ale were drunk, and comic 
songs were sung, with such a chorus, that to join in it was to be 
overcome by such fatigue, or to be reduced n-om wildest mirth 
to such a pitch of sudden melancholy, as ultimately to lead to 
the finishing of the evening in tears, or else under the table. 
He remembers all these things, and he wonders — as, being a 
madmnn, it is natural he should — YrondBt^ '^'WCaRrt "SK* ^asv.'X^ 



156 The Trail of the Serpent 

indeed hiinsclf, who once was that wittiest, handsomest, most 
generous, a^id best of fellows, baptised long ago in a river 
of sparkling hock, moselle, and burgundy, " Daredevil Dick." 

But something more than these sad memories comes with the 
deepening twilight, for presently Eichard hears the door of hia 
room unlocked, and his keeper's voice, saying, — 

" There, go in, and tell the gent youVe come. I'm a-comin* 
in with his supper and his lamp presently, and then 1*11 tell yon 
what youVe got to do." 

Naturally JRichard looked round in the direction of the door, 
for he knew this must be the strange boy. Now, his late 
juvenile attendant had numbered some fifteen summers ; to say 
nothing of the same number of winters, duly chronicled by 
chilblams and chapped hands. Richard's eyes therefore looked 
towards the open aoor at about that height from the ground 
which a lad of fifteen has commonly attained ; and looking thus, 
Richard saw nothing. He therefore lowered his glance, and in 
about the neighbourhood of what would have been the lowest 
button of his last attendant's waistcoat, he beheld the small 
pale thin face of a very small and very thin boy. 

This small boy was standing rubbing his right little foot 
against his left little wizen leg, and looking intentlv at Richard. 
To say that his tiny face had a great deal of character in it 
would not be to say much ; what face he had was all character. 

Determination, concentration, energy, strength of will, and 
brightness of intellect, were all written in unmistakable lines 
upon that pale pinched face. The boy's features were wonder- 
fully regular, and had nothing in common with the ordinary 
features of a boy of his age and his class ; the tiny nose was a 
perfect aquiline; the decided mouth might have belonged to a 
j)rime minister with the blood of the Plantagenets in Hs veins. 
The eyes, of a bluish grey, were small, and a little too near 
together, but the light in them was the light of an intelligence 
marvellous in one so young. 

Richard, though a wild and reckless fellow, had never been 
devoid of thought, and in the good days past had dabbled in 
many a science, and had adopted and abandoned many a creed. 
He was something of a physiognomist, and he read enough in 
one glance at this boy's face to awaken both surprise and interest 
inhmi. 

"So," said he, "you are the new boy! Sit down," h% 
|M>inted to a little wooden stool near the bed as he spoke. " Sit 
iown, and make yourself at home.'' 

The boy obeyed, and seated himself firmly by the side of 
Richard's pillow ; but the stool was so low, and he was so small, 
that Richard had to change his position to look over the edge of 
th0 bod at his new attendant. While Daredevil Dick contem^ 



The Boy from Slopperion, 157 

plated him the boy's small grey eyes peered ronnd the four 
wliitewaslied walls, and then fixed themselves npon the barred 
window with such a look of concentration, that it seemed to 
llichard as if the little lad must be calculating the thickness 
and power of resistance of each iron bar with the accuracy of a 
mathematician. 

" What's your name, my lad ? " asked Richard. He had been 
always beloved by all his inferiors for a manner combining the 
stately reserve of a great king with the friendly condcscensioa 
of a popular prince. 

" Slosh, sir," answered the boy, bringing his grey eyes with a 
great effort away from the iron bars and back to Richard. 

" Slosh ! A curious name. Your surname, I suppose ? " 

** Surname and christen name too, sir. Slosh — short for 
Slosliy." 

" But have you no surname, then?" 

** No, sir ; fondling, sir." 

•' A foundling s dear me, and you are called Sloshy ! Why, 
that is the name of the river that runs through Sloppcrton." 

" Yes, sir, which I was found in the mud of the river, sir, 
v» lien I was only three months old, sir." 

*• Found in the river — were you ? Poor boy — and by whom P" 

** By the gent what adopted me, sir." 

"And ho is ?" asked Richard. 

" A gent connected with the police force, sir ; detective " 

This one word worked a sudden change in Richard's manner. 
Ho raised himself on his elbow, looked intently at the boy, and 
asked, eagerly, — 

" This detective, what is his name P But no," he muttered, 
" I did not even know the name of that man. Stay — tell me, 
you know perhaps some of the men in the. Slopperton police 
force besides your adopted father ? " 

" I knows every man jack of 'em, sir; and a fine staff they ia 
— a credit to their country and a happiness to theirselves." 

"Do you happen to know amongst them a dumb manP" 
asked Richard. 

" Lor', sir, that's him." 

"Whop" 

"Father, sir. The gent what found me and adopted me. 
Tve got a messjvge for you, sir, from father, and I was a-goin' to 
give it you, only I thought I'd look about me a little first ; but 
stay — Oh, dear, the gentleman's took and fainted. Here," he 
said, running to the door and calUng out in a shriU voice, " come 
and unlock this here place, will yei, and look alive with that 
lump I The gentleman's gone off into a dead faint, and there 
ain't so much as a drop of water to chuck over his face." 

The prisoner had indeed fallen back iiiseiXi!&\fc[\^ c>> ^Os^\ 




158 The Trail of the Serpent. 

For eight long years lio had nourished in his heart a glimmering 
thotign dying nope that he might one day receive some token 
of remembrance from the man who had taken a strange part in 
the eventful crisis of his life. This ray of light had fiitely died 
out, along with every other ray which had once illuminated his 
dreary life ; but in the very moment when hope was abandoned, 
the token once eagerly looked for came upon him so suddenly, 
that the shock was too much for his shattered mind and feeble 
frame. 

When Kichard recovered from his swoon, he found 'himself 
alone with the boy from Slopperton. He was a little startled 
by the position of that young person, who had seated himself 
upon the small square deal te.ble by the bedside, commanding 
firom this elevation a full view of Itichard's face, whereon his 
two small grey eyes were intently fixed, with that same odd look 
of concentration with which he nad regarded the iron bars. 

" Come now," said he, with the consolatory tone of an expe- 
rienced sick-nurse ; " come now, we mustn't give way like this, 
just because we hears from our friends ; because, you see, if we 
does, our friends can't be no good to us whichever way their 
intention may be." 

"You said you had a message for me," said Richard, in 
feeble but anxious tones. 

" Well, it ain't a long un, and here it is," answered the 
young gentleman from his extempore pulpit ; and then he con- 
tinued, wii^ very much the air of giving out a text — " Keep up 
your pecker." 

** Keep up whatP" muttered Richard. 

" Your pecker. * Keep up your pecker,' them's his words ; 
and as he never yet vos known to make a dirty dinner off his 
own syllables, it ain't likely as he'll take and eat *em. He saye 
to me — on his fingers, in course — * Tell the gent to keep up his 
pecker, and leave all the rest to you ; for you're a pocket edition 
of all the sharpness as ever knives was nothing to, or else say 
I've brought you up for no good whatsomedever. " 

This was rather a vague speech; so perhaps it is scarcely 
strange that Richard did not derive much immediate comfort 
from it. But, in spite of himself, he did derive a great deal of 
comfort from the presence of this boy, though he almost 
despised himself for attachiug the least importance to the words 
of an urchin of little better than eight years of age. Certainly 
this urchin of eight had a shrewdness of manner which would 
have been almost remarkable in a man of the world of fifty, 
and Richard could scarcely help fancying that ho must have 
graduated in some other hemisphere, and been thrown, small as 
to size, but fall grown as to acuteness, into this ; or it seemed as 
// some great strong man had been reduced into the compass oi 



The Boy from SlopperUm, 159 

A little boy, in order to make him sharper, as cooks boil down a 
gallon of gravy to a pint in the manufacture of strong soup. 

But, however the boy came to be what he was, there he was, 
holding forth from his pulpit, and handing Bichard the regula- 
tion basin of broth which composed his supper. 

" Now, what you've got to do," said he, " is to get well ; for 
until you are well, and strong too, there ain't the least proba- 
bility of your bein' able to change your apartments, il' you 
should feel so inclined, which perhaps ain't likely." 

Richard looked at the diminutive speaker with a wonderment 
be could not repress. 

" Starin' won't cure you," said his juvenile attendant, with 
friendly disrespect, " not if you took the pattern of my face till 
you could draw it in the dark. The best thing you can do is to 
eat your supper, and to-morrow we must try what we can do 
for you in the way of port wine ; for if you ain't strong and 
well afore that ere river outside this ere vail goes down, it's a 
chance but vot it'll be a long time afore you sees the outside 
of the val in question." 

Richard caught hold of the boy's small arm with a grasp 
which, in spite of his weakness, had a convulsive energy that 
nearly toppled his youthful attendant from his elevation. 

"You never can think of anything so wildP" he said, in a 
tumult of agitation. 

" Lor' bless yer 'art, no," said the boy ; " we never thinks of 
anything vot's wild — our 'abits is business-like ; but vot you've 
got to do is to go to sleep, and not to worrit yourself; and as I 
said before, I say again, when you're well and strong we'll think 
about changin' these apartments. We can make excuse that 
the look-out was too lively, or that the colour of the whitewash 
was a-/iinjurin' our eyesight." 

For the first time for many nights Richard slept well ; and 
opening his eyes the next morning, his first anxiety was to con- 
vmce himself that the arrival of the boy from Slopperton was 
not some foolish dream engendered in his disordered brain. No, 
there the boy sat : whether he had been to sleep on the table, 
or whether he had never taken his eyes off Richard the whole 
night, there he was, with those eyes fixed, exactly as they had 
been the night before, on the prisoner's face. 

" Why, I declare we're all the better for our good night's 
rest," he said, rabbing his hands, as he contemplated Richard ; 
" and we're ready for our breakfast as soon as ever we can get 
it, which will be soon, judging by our keeper's hobnailed boots 
as is a-comin' down the passage ^vith a tray in his hand." 

Thia rather confused statement was confirmed by a noise in 
the stone coriidor without, which sounded as if a pair of jstout 
working men's bluchers were walking in co^^\iBuw^ \f^ *d* \3a5ss;:^ 
and a teasvoon. 



160 TIic Trail of the Serpent 

"llunlil" said the boy, holding np a warning forefinger, 
"keep it darkl" Eichard did not exactly know wliat he was 
to keep dark ; but as he had, without one effort at resistance, 
surrendered himself, mentally and physically, to the directioi) 
of his small attendant, he lay perfectly still, and did not utter a 
word. 

In obedience to this youthful director, he also took his break- 
fast, to the last mouthful of the regulation bread, and to the 
last spoonful of the regulation coffee — ay, even to the grounds 
(whicii, preponderating in that liquid, formed a species of 
stratum at the bottom of the basin, commonly known to the 
inmates of the asylum as "the thick") — for as the boy said, 
" grounds is strengthening." Breakfast finished, the asylum 
physician came, in the course of his rounds, for his matutinal 
visit to Richard's cell. His skill was entirely at a loss to find 
any cure for so strange a disease as that which affected the 
prisoner. One of the leading features, however, in this young 
man's sickness, had been an entire loss of appetite, and almost 
an entire inability to sleep. When, therefore, he heard that his 
patient had eaten a good supper, slept well all night, and had 
just finished the regulation breakfast, he said, — 

" Come, come, we are getting better, then — our complaint is 
taking a turn. "We are quiet in our mind, too, eh ? Not fret- 
ting about Moscow, or making ourselves unhappy about 
Waterloo, I hopeP" 

The asylum doctor was a cheerful easy good-tempered fellow, 
who humoured the fancies of his patients, however wild they 
might be ; and though half the kings in the history of England, 
and some sovereigns unchronicled in any history whatever were 
represented in the establishment, he was never known to forget 
the respect due to a monarch, however condescending that 
monarch might be. He was, therefore, a general favourite; 
and had received more orders of the Bath and the Garter, in 
the shape of red tape and scraps of paper, and more title-deeds, 
in the way of old curl-papers and bits of newspaper, than would 
have served as the stock-in-trade of a marine storekeeper, with 
the addition of a few bottles and a black doll. He knew that 
one characteristic of Richard's madness was to fancy himself 
the chained eagle of the sea-bound rock, and he thought to 
humour the patient by humouring the hallucination. 

Eichard looked at this gentleman with a thoughtful glance 
in his dark eyes. 

" I didn't mind Moscow, sir," he said, very gravely ; " the 
elements beat me there — and they were stronger than Han- 
nibal; but at Waterloo, what broke my heart was — not the 
icfeat, but the disgrace!" He turned away his head as he 
spoke, and lay in silence, with his bfbck turned to the good 
fjutured pbysiciajfi. 



Tit Bojfram SUcppeH^^ 161 

*Ifo Dnmplaiiiti «boot gr Hadsop Lcmn^ I lnyeF* aftidtlie 
medical msn. ''Tficygxre joi&eTerftliicgTaa vmnt^gcoenl?* 

The ^ood doctor, hang so nnich in t&* habit of inunoaiisg 
his patienti^ had their titlea ahraja at the tip of his tongne; 
and walked about in » peiftct atmosphere ot Pinnock's Gold' 
snuth. 

As the general made no replr to his qoestion, the doctor 
looked from him to the boj, who had, ont of respect to the 
medical official, descended from his pni^ot, and stood tugging at 
a very diminn^ve lo^ of hair, with an action which he intended 
to represent a bow. 

** Does be ask for anything? " asked the doctor. 

" Don't be, sir F " sand the boy, answezing one qnestion with 
another. "He's been doing notbin' for ever so long bnt askja' 
for a drop o' wine. He says he feels a kind of sinldn* that 
notbin' bnt wine can cnre." 

**He shall have it, then," said the doctor. ""A little port 
wine with a toach of iron in it wonld help to bring him ronnd 
as soon as anything, and be snre you see that be takes it. I've 
been giving mm qninine for some time past; bnt it has done 
so little towards making bim stronger, that I sometimes 
donbt bis having taken it. Has he complained of anything 
else?" 

*' Well, sir," said the boy, this time looking at bis onestioner 
very intently, and seeming to consider every word oefore ht 
said it, *' there is sometbin' which I can make out from what 
be says when he t^s to bisself — ^and he does talk to hissolf 
awful — sometbin' which preys upon his mind very much ; but 
I don't suppose it's mucn good mentioning it either." Here 
he stopped, hesitating, and looking very earnestly at the doctor. 

"Wliyiiot.niyboy?" 

''Because you see, sir, what he hankers after is agen the 
rules of the as]^lum — ^leastways, the rules the Board malces for 
such as hira." 

** But what is it, my good lad P Toll me what it is he wishes 
for?" said the medical man. 

'* Why, it's a singular wish, I dare say, sir ; but he's alius a 

taUdn' about the oSier lun " he hesitated, as if out of deli* 

cacy towards Eichard, and substituted the word " boarders " 
for that which he had been about to use — "and ho says, if he 
could only be allowed to mix with 'cm now and then he'd be 
as happy as a king. But, of course, as I was a-tcUin' him when 
you come in, sir, that's agen the rules of the establislimcnt, and 
m consequence is impossible — 'cause why, those 'ore rules is like 
Swedes and Nasturtiums — [the boy from Slopporton may pos- 
sibly have been thinking of (he Medcs ana PorBiaus'f- •nrf 
C^n't be gone agen." 



103 The Yrail of the Serpent. 

"1 don'fc know about that," said the good-natured doctor. 
" So, general," he added, turning to Richard, who had shifted 
his position, and now lay looking at his visitor rather anxiously, 
" so, gencraX you would Hke to mix with your friends out 
there?" 

" Indeed I should, sir." Those deep and earnest dark eyes, 
mth which Kichard watched the doctor's face, were scarcely the 
eyes of a madman. 

" Very well, then," said the medical man, " very well ; we 
must see if it can't be managed. But I say, general, you'll find 
the Prince Regent among your fellow-boarders ; and I wouldn't 
answer for your not meeting with Lord Gastlereagh, and that 
might cause unpleasantness — eh, general P " 

"No, no, sir; there's no fear of that. Political differences 
should never " 

" Interfere with private friendship. A noble sentiment, general. 
Yery well, you shall mix with the other boarders to-morrow. 
I'll speak to the Board about it this afternoon. This, luckily, is 
a Board-day. You'U find George the Fourth a very nice fellow. 
He came here because he would take everythmg of other 
people's that he could lay his hands on, and said he was only 
taking taxes from his subjects. Good-day. I'll send round 
some port wine immedmtely, and you shall have a couple of 
glasses a day given you ; so keep up your spirits, general." 

" Well," said the boy from Slopperton, as the doctor closed 
the door behind him, "that 'ere medical officer's a regular 
brick: and all I can say is to repeat his last words — ^^vllich 
ought to be printed in gold letters a foot high — and those words 
is, — * Keep up your spirits, general.* " 



i ti 



CHAPTER n. 

XB. AVGUSTirS BABIiET AND MR. JOSEPn FETEBS 60 OUT FISniNG. 

A LONG period of incessant rains had by no means improved 
the natural beauties of the Sloshy ; nor had it in any manner 
enhanced the advantages attending a residence on the banks of 
that river. The occupants of the houses by the waterside were 
in the habit of going to sleep at night with the firm conviction 
that the lower portion of their tenement was a comfortable 
kitchen, and awakening in the morning were apt to find it a 
ijliniature lake. 

Then, again, the river had a knack of dropping in at odd 

times, in a friendly way, when least expected — when Mrs. Jones 

Mras cooking the Sunday's diimer, or wnile Mrs. Brown was gone 

to market i and, as its manner of entering an apartment was. 



Messn. DarJey and Feteri go out FMina. 163 

ftiler the fasMon of a ghost in a melodrama, to rise through the 
floor, the snrDrise occasioned hj its appearance was not unal- 
loyed by vexation. 

It would intrude, an uninvited guest, at a social tea-party, and 
suddenly isolate every visitor on ms or her chair as on an island. 

There was not a mouse or a black-beetle in any of the kitchens 
by the Sloshy whose life was worth the holding, such an enemy 
was the swellmg water to all domestic jieace or comfort. 

It is true that to some fresh and adventurous spirits the rising 
of the river afforded a kind of eccentric gratification. It gave a 
smack of the flavour of Yenice to the dull insipidity of Slop- 
perton life ; and to an imaginative mind every coal-barge that 
went by became a gondola, and only wanted a cavalier, with a 
very short doublet, pointed shoes, and a guitar, to make it per- 
fecfion. 

Indeed, Miss Jones, milliner and dressmaker, had been heard 
to say, that when she saw the water coming up to the parlour- 
windows she could hardly believe she was not really in the city 
of the winged horses, round the comer out of the square of 
St. Mark's, and three doors from the Bridge of Sighs. Miss 
Jones was well up in Yenetian topography, as she was engaged 
in the perusal of a powerful work in penny numbers, detaihng 
the adventures of a celebrated * Bravo" of that city. 

To the ardent minds of the juvenile denizens of the water* 
side the swollen river was a source of pure and unalloyed delight. 
To take a tour round one's own back kitchen in a washing-tub, 
with a duster for a sail, is perhaps, at the age of six, a more 
perfect species of enjoyment than that afforded by any Alpine 
glories or Highland sceneir through which we mav wander in 
after-years, when Reason has taught us her cold lesson, that, 
however bright the sun may shine on one side of the mountain, 
the shadows are awaiting us on the other. 

There is a gentleman in a cutaway coat and a white hat, 
smoking a verv short and black clay pipe, as he loiters on the 
bank of the Sloshj . I wonder what he thinks of the river P 

It is eight years since this gentleman was last in Slopperton ; 
then he came as a witness m the trial of Eichard Marwood ; 
then he had a black eye, and was out-at-elbows ; now, his optica 
are surrounded with no dark shades which mar their natural 
colour — clear bright grey. Now, too, he is, to speak faniiliarly, 
in high feather. His cutaway coat of the newest fashion (for 
there is fashion even in cutaways) ; his plaid trousers, painfully 
tight at the knees, and admirably adapted to display the de- 
velopment of the calf, are still bright with the greens and blues 
of tne Macdonald! His hat is not crushed or indented in above 
half-a-dozen directions — a sign that it ia com^ax^icv:^^'^ T!iKw>^<>5t. 
the drcHe in which he moves oonBid&i» V>Ti3i^^cc^^ ^ ^xvwiSis;^ 



164 The Trail of {he Serpent 

demoT.slraiioii, and to knock a man's hat off his head and into 
the gutter rather a polite attention. 

Yes, during the last eight years the prospects of Mr. Augus- 
tus Darley — (that is the name of the witness) — ^have been 
decidedly looking up. Eight years ago he was a medical student, 
loose on wide London; eatmg bread-and-cheese and drinking 
bottled stout in dissecting-rooms, and chalking up alarming 
scores at the caravansary round the comer of Goodge Street — 
when the proprietor of the caravansary would chalk up. There 
were days which that stem man refused to mark with a white 
stone. Now, he has a dispensary of his own; a marvellous 
place, which would be entirely devoted to scientific pursuits if 
dominoes and racing calendars did not in some degree predomi- 
nate therein. This dispensary is in a populous neighbourhood on 
the Surrey side of the water ; and in the streets and squares — 
to say nothing of the court and mews — round this establishment 
the name of Augustus Darley is synonymous with everything 
which is popular and pleasant. His very presence is said to be 
as good as physic. Inow, as physic in the abstract, and apart 
from its curative quahties, is scarcely a very pleasant thing, 
this may be considered rather a doubtful compliment ; but for 
all that, it was meant in perfect good faith, and what's more, it 
meant a great deal. 

When anybody felt ill, he sent for Gus Darley — (he had never 
been called Mr. but once in his life, and then by a sheriflfs officer, 
who, arresting him for the first time, wasn't on familiar terms ; 
all Cursitor Street knew him as "Gus, old fellow," and "Darley, 
niy boy," before long). If the patient was very bad, Gus told 
him a good story. If the case seemed a serious one, he sang a 
comic song. If the patient felt, in popular parlance, " low," 
Darley would stop to supper; and if Iby that time the patient 
was not entirely restored, his medical adviser would send him a 
ha'porth of Epsom salts, or three-farthings' worth of rhubarb 
and magnesia, jocosely labelled "The Mixture." It was a 
comforting delusion, laboured under by every patient of Gus 
Darley's, that the young surgeon prescribed ror him a very 
mysterious and peculiar amalgamation of drugs, which, though 
certain death to any other man, was the only preparation in the 
whole pharmacopoeia that could possibly keep nim aHve 

There was a saying current in the neighbourhood of the dis- 
pensary, to the effect that Gus Darley's description of the Derby 
Day was the best Epsom salts ever invented for the cure of man's 
diseases ; and he has been known to come home from the races 
at ten o'clock at night, and assist at a sick-bed (successfully), 
with a wet towel round his head, and a painful conviction that 
he was prescribing for two patients at once. 

fiuf £u/ iMa tajna he is QtroUing by the swollen Sloshy, witl| 



Mes3r3, Darley and Peters go cut FisJiing. 165 

his pipe in his mouth and a coiitemplative face, which ever and 
anon looks earnestly np the nver. Presently he stops by a 
boat-builder's yard, and speaks to a man at work. 

" Well,"^ he says, " is that boat finished yetP" 

" Yes, sir," says the man, " quite finished, and uncommon well 
she looks too ; you might eat your dinner off her ; the paint's 
as dry as a bone," 

"How about the false bottom I spoke of P" he asks. 

"Oh, that's all right, sir, two feet and a half deep, and 
six feet and a half kng. I'll tell you what, sir, — no ofilince 
— but you must catch a precious sight more eels than I 
thmk you wiU catch, if you mean to fiU the bottom of that 'ere 
punt." 

As the man speaks, he points to where the boat lies high and 
dry in the builder's yard. A great awkward flat-bottomed 
punt, big enough to hold half-a-dozen people. 

Gus strolls up to look at it. The man follows him. 

He lifts up the bottom of the boat with a great thick loop 
of rope. It IS made lit-e a trap-door, two feet and a half above 
the keel. 

" Why," said Gus, " a man could lie down in the keel of the 
boat, with that main deck over him.'* 

" To be sure he could, sir, and a pretty long un, too ; though 
I don't say much for its being a over-comfortable berth. He 
might feel himself rather cramped if he was of a restless dispo- 
sition." 

Gus laughed, and said, — ** You're right, he might, certainly, 
poor follow! Come, now, you're rather a tall chap, I should 
like to see if you could lie down there comfortably for a minute 
or so. We'll talk about some beer when you come out." 

The man looked at Mr. Darley with rather a puzzled glance. 
He had heard the legend of the mistletoe bough. Ho had 
helped to build the boat, but for all that there might be a hidden 
spring somewhere about it, and Gus's request might concecl 
some sinister Jntent ; but no one who had once looked onj 
medical friend in the face ever doubted him ; so the man laughed 
and said,- 

" Well, you're a rum un, whoever the other is" (people were 
rarely very deferential in their manner of addressing Gus 
Darley) ; ** howsomedever, here's to oblige you." And the man 
got into the boat, and lying down, suffered Gus to lower the 
false bottom of it over him. 

" How do you feel ? " asks Gus. ** Can yon breathe ? — ^have 
yon plentj of air P" 

" All nght, sir," says the man through a hole in the plank. 
•* It's quite a extensive berth, when you've once settled yourself 
only it ain't much calculated fox active ft^L'etda^r 



166 The Trail qf the Serpent. 

''Do yoD think yon oonld stand it for half at hoorP** Gni 
iMiuircs. 

*' Lor, blc88 yon, sir I for half-a-dozen hours, if I was paid 
•coordin*." 

** Should vonthink half-a-crown enough for twenty minntea P" 

** Well, I don*t know, sir ; suppose you made it three shillings ? " 

"Very good," said Gus; "three shillings it shall be. It's 
now half-i>ast twelve;" he looks at his watch as he speaks. 
'* ril sit here and smoke a pipe ; and if you lie quiet till ten 
minutes to one, you'll have earned the three bob." 

Gus steps into the boat, and seats himself at the prow; the 
man's hcaa lies at the stem. 

** Can you see me P** Gus inquires. 

" Yes, sir, when I squints." 

"Very well, then, you can see I don't make a bolt of it. 
Muko your mind easy : there's five minutes gone already." 

Gus finishes his pipe, looks at his watch again — a quarter to 
one. lie whistles a scena from an opera, and then jumps out 
of the boat and pulls up the false bottom. 

** All's right," ne says ; " time's up." 

The man gets out and s1a*etches nis legs and arms, as if to 
convince himself that those members are unimpaired. 

" Well, was it pretty comfortable ? " Gus asks. 

" Lor' love you, sir I regular jolly, with the exception of bein* 
rather warm, and makin' a cove precious dry." 

Gus gives the man wherewith to assuage this drought, and 
says,— 

"You may shove the boat down to the water, then. IMy 
friend will be here in a minute with the tackle, and we can then 
see about makiuff a start." 

The boat is launched, and the man amuses himself with 
lowing a few yards up the river, while Gus waits for his friend. 

In about ten minutes his friend arrives, in the person of Mr. 
Joseph Peters, of the police force, with a couple of eel-spears 
over nis shoulder (which mve him somewhat the appearance of 
a dry-land Neptune), and a good-sized carpet-bag, which he 
carries in his hand. , i i x • 

Gus and he exchange a few remarks in the silent alpliabet, m 
which Gus is almost as great an adept as the dumb detective, 
•aid they step into the punt „ ,, . x 

The boet-buildei's man is sent for a gallon of beer m a stone 

botQe, % half-quartern loaf, and a piece of cheese. These pro- 

monibems ^pped, Darley and Peters each take an oar, and 

fhiey vdlsS^ frmihe bank and strike out into the middle of 

Am 



TJie Emjperor hiJs adieu to Ella. 2C7 

OnAPTER ni. 

THE EMPEUOU BIDS ADIEU TO ELBA. 

On this some day, but at a later liour in the afternoon, Richard 
Marwood, better known as the Emperor Napoleon, joined the 
inmates of the county asylum in their daily exercise in the 
grounds allotted for that purpose. These grounds consisted of 
prim grass-plots, adorned with here and there a bed in which 
some dismal shrubs, or a few sickly chrysanthemums held up 
their gloomy heads, beaten and shattered by the recent heavy 
rains. These grass-plots were surrounded by stijff straight 
gravel- walks ; and the whole was shut in by a high wall, sur- 
mounted by a chevaux'de-fnse. The iron spikes composing this 
adornment had been added of late years ; for, in spite of the 
comforts and attractions of the establishment, some foolish in • 
habitants thereof, languishing for gayer and more dazzling 
scenes, had been known to attempt, if not to effect, an escape 
from the numerous advantages of their home. I cannot venture 
to say whether or not the vegetable creation may have some 
mysterious sympathy with ammated nature ; but certainly no 
trees, shrubs, flowers, grass, or weeds ever grew like the trees, 
shrubs, flowers, grass, and weeds in the grounds of the county 
lunatic asylum. From the gaunt elm, which stretched out two 
great rugged arms, as if in a wild imprecation, such as might 
come from the lips of some human victim of the worst form ot 
insanity, to the frivolous chickweed in a comer of a gravel-walk, 
whch grew as if not a root, or leaf, or fibre but had a different 
purpose to its fellow, and flew off at its own peculiar tanoront, 
with an infantine and kittenish madness, such as might nave 
afilicted a love-sick miss of seventeen ; from the great melan- 
choly mad laurel-bushes that rocked themselves to and fro in 
the wind with a restlessness known only to the insane, to the 
eccentric dandelions that reared their disordered heads from 
amidst the troubled and dishevelled grass — every green thing in 
that great place seemed more or less a victim to that terrible 
disease whose influence is of so subtle a nature, that it infects 
the very stones of the dark walls which shut in shattered minds 
that once were strong and whole, and fallen intellects that once 
were bright and lofty. 

But as a stranger to this place, looking for the first time at 
the groups of men and women lounging slowly up and down 
these gravel-walks, perhaps what most startles you, perhaps 
even what most distresses you, is, that these wi'etched people 
scarcely seem unhappy .Oh, merciful and wondrou swise dispen- 
sation from Him wno fits the back to bear the burden ! He so 
appoints it. The man, whose doubts or fears, or wild aspiri 
to the misty far-away, all the >yoTld'B madam c^axs^^T^aH* ^'^ 



iriMj^^ 



1G8 The 2Vail of the Serpent 

day appease, is to-day made happy by a scrap of pl^Mp^'Or A 
shred of ribbon. We who, standing in the blessed Hght, look 
in upon this piteons mental darkness, are perhaps most ini» 
happy, because we cannot tell how much or how little sorrow tliia 
death-in-life may shroud. They have passed away from us; 
their language is not our language, nor their world our world. 
I think some one has asked a strange question — ^Who can tell 
whether their foUy may not perhaps be better than our wisdom? 
He only, from whose mighty hand comes the music of every 
soul, can tell which is the discord and which the harmony. We 
look at them as we look at all else — through the darkened glass 
of earth's uncertainty. 




iperabundance of fat in a leg-of-mutton served up 
Onronology naver disturbs these good people; nobody thinks 
it any disgrace to be an anachronism. Lord Brougham will 
divide an unripe apple with Cicero, and William the Conqueror 
will walk arm-m-arm with Pius the Ninth, without the, least un- 
easiness on the score of probability ; and when, on one occasion, 
a gentleman, who for three years had enjoyed considerable 
popularity as Cardinal Wolsey, all of a sudden recovered, and 
confessed to being plain John Thomson, the inmates of the 
asylum we^e unanimous in feeling and expressing the most 
profound contempt for his unhappy state. 

To-day, however, Eichard is the hero. He is surrounded im- 
mediately on his appearance by all the celebrities and. a great 
many of the non-celebrities of the establishment. The llmperor 
of the German Ocean and the Chelsea Waterworks in particular 
has so much to say to him, that he does not know how to be^ ; 
and when he does begin, has to go back and begin again, m a 
manner both affable and bewildermg. 

Why did not Richard join them before, he asks — ^they are so 
very pleasant, they are so very social ; why, in goodness-gracious' 
name (he opens his eyes very wide as he utters the name of 
poodness-gracious, and looks oack over his shoulder rather as if 
tie thinks he may have invoked some fiend), why did not 
llicliard join them P 

Richard tells him he was not allowed to do so. 

On this, the potentate looks intensely mysterious. He is 
rather stout, and wears a head-dress of his own manufacture — 
ft species of coronet, constructed of a newspaper and a blue-and- 
white bird's-eye pocket-handkerchief. He puts his hands to the 
rery furthest extent that he can push them into his trousers- 
pockets ; plants himself right before Richard on the gravel- 
walk, and says, with a wink of intense significance, " Was ii 
*'he Khan P " 



Tlie Emperor bids adieu to Ulla. 169 

Bichard says, he thinks not. 

" Not the !Khan !" he mutters thonghtfully. " Yoa really are 
of opinion that it was not the Khan?" 

" I reallv am," Richard replies. 

" Then it lies between the last Duke of Devonshire but six- 
tfeen and Abd-el-Kader : I do hope it wasn't Abd-el-Kader; I 
had a better opinion of Abd-el-Kader — ^I had indeed." 

Richard looks rather puzzled, but says nothing. 

"There has evidently," continued his friend, "been some 
mahgnant influence at work to prevent your appearing amongst 
us before this. You have been a member of this society tor, 
let me see, three hundred and sixty-three years — ^be kind enough 
to set me right if I make a mis-statement — three hundred and 
— did I say seventy-twelve years ? — and you have never yet 
joined us ! Now, there is something radically wrong here ; to 
use the language of the ancients in their religious festivals, 
there is * a screw loose.* You ought to have joined us, you 
really ought ! We are very social ; we are positively buoyant ; 
we have a ball every evening. Well, no, perhaps it is not every 
evening. My ideas as to time, I am told, are vague ; but I 
know it is either every ten years, or every other week. I incline 
to thijrfdng it must be every other week. On these occasions 
wo dance. Are you a votary of Terp— what-you-may-call-her, 
the lady who had so many unmanied sisters P Do you incline 
to the light fantastic ? " By way of illiistration, the Emperor 
of the Waterworks executed a caper, which would have done 
honour to an elderly elephant taking his first lesson in the 
polka. 

There was one advantage in conversing with this gentleman. 
If his questions were sometimes of rather a difficult and 
puzzling nature, he never did anything so under-bred as to 
wait for an answer. It now appeared for the first time to strike 
hmi, that perhaps the laws of exclusiveness had in some man- 
ner been violated, by a person of his distinction having talked 
so familiarly to an entire stranger ; he therefore suddenly 
skipped a pace or two backwards, leaving a track of small open 
graves in the damp gravel made by the impression of his feet, 
and said, in atone of voice so dignified as to be almost freezing—. 

"Pray, to whom hav« I the honour to make these obser- 
vations r " 

Richard regretted to say he had not a card about him, but 
added — " You may have heard of the Emperor Napoleon P " 

"Buonaparte? Oh, certainly; very frequently, very fre- 
quently : and you are that worthy person ? Dear me ! this is 
very sad. Not at your charming summer residence at Moscow, 
or your pleasant winter retreat on the field of Waterloo : thia 
is really distressing, very." 



i 



i 



170 The Trait of the Serpent 

TTiH pity for Ricliard was so intense, that lie was moved to 
tears, and picked a dandelion with which to wipe his eyes. 

** My Chelsea property," he said presently, ** is fluctuating — 
very. I find a tendency in householders to submit to having 
their water cut off, rather than pay the rate. Our only plan ia 
to empty every cistern half an hour before tea-time. Persevered 
in for a week or so, we find that course has a harassing effect, and 
they pay. But all this is wearing for the nerves — ^very." 

He snook his head solemnly, rubbed his eyes very hard with 
the dandelion, and then ate that exotic blossom. 

" An agreeable tonic," he said ; " known to be conducive to 
digestion. My German Ocean I find more profitable, on account 
of the sea-bathing." 

Bichard expressed himself veiy much interested in the com- 
mercial prospects of his distinguished friend; but at this 
moment they were interrupted by the approach of a lady, who, 
with a peculiar hop, skip, and jump entirely her own, came up 
to the Emperor of the Waterworks and took hold of his arm. 

She was a gushing thing of some forty-odd summers, and 
wore a bonnet, the very purchase of which would have stamped 
her as of unsound intellect, without need of any further proof 
whatever. To say that it was like a coal-scuttle was nothing ; 
to say that it resembled a coal-scuttle which had suffered from 
an aggravated attack of water on the brain, and ^one mad, 
would be perhaps a little nearer the mark. Imagme such a 
bonnet adorned with a green veil, rather bigger^ than an ordi- 
nary table cloth, and three quill pens tastefully inserted in the 
direction in which Parisian milliners are wont to place the 
plumage of foreign birds — and you may form some idea of the 
lady's head-gear. Her robes were short and scanty, but plen- 
tifully embellished with a species of trimming, which to an 
ordiiiaiy mind suggested strips of calico, but which amongst 
the inmates passed cuiTent as YaJenciennes lace. Below these 
robes appeared a pair of apple-green boots — ^boots of a pattern 
such as no shoemaker of sound mind ever in his wildest dream? 
jould have originated, but which in this establishment wove 
voted rather recherche than otherwise. Tliis lady was no other 
than the damsel who had suggested an elopement with Richard 
some eight years ago, and who claimed for her distinguished 
connections the Pojje and the mufiin-man. 

" Well," she said to the Emperor of the Waterworks, with a 
▼oice and manner which would have been rather absurdly juve- 
nile in a girl of fifteen, — " and where has its precious one been 
hiding since dinner P Was it the fat mutton which rendered 
the most brilliant of mankind unfit for general society ; or was 
it that it * had a heart for falsehood framed ? ' I hope it waa 
Ibe fat mutton." 



The Emperor hidt adieu to Elba. 171 

** It's precious one " looked from the charmer at his side to 
Richard, with rather an apologetic shrug. 

" The sex is weak,** he said, " conqueror of A^ncoui't — I beg 
pardon, Waterloo. The sex is weak : it is a fact established 
alike by medical science and political economy. Poor thing I 
she loves me.'* 

The lady, for the first time, became aware of the presence of 
Richard. She dropped a veiy low curtesy, in the performance of 
which one of the green boots described a complete circle, and said, 

" From Gloucestershire, sir ? ** inten*ogatively. 

" The Emperor Napoleon Buonaparte," said the proprietor of 
the German Ocean. " My dear, you ought to know him.** 

"The Emperor Nap-o-le-on 6u-o-na-pai'te,** she said very 
slowly, checking off the syllables on her fingers, "and from 
Gloucestershire? How gratifying! 'All our great men come 
from Gloucestershire. It is a well-known fact — from Gloucester- 
shire P Mufiins were invented in Gloucestershire by Alfred the 
Great. Did you know our dear Alfred ? You are perhaps too 
young — a great loss, my dear sir, a great loss ; conglomerated 
essence of toothache on the cerebral nerves took him off in 
fourteen days, three weeks, and one month. We tried every- 
thing, from dandelions " — (her eyes wandered as if searching 
the grounds for information as to what they had tried) — from 
dandelions to chevaux-de-frise — ** 

She stopped abruptl}'", staring Richard full in the face, as if 
she expected him to say something ; but as he said nothing, 
«he became suddenly interested in the contemplation of the 
^rccn boots, looking first at one and then at the other, as if 
revolving in her mind the probability of their wanting mending 

Presently she looked up, and said with great solenmity — 

" Do you know the muffin-man ? *' 

Richard shook his head. 

" He lives in Drury Lane,'* she added, looking at him rath«L 
sternly, as much as to say, " Come, no nonsense ! you know him 
well enough 1 " 

" No,'* said Richard, " T don't remember having met him.** 

;* There are seventy-nine of us who know the muffm-man in 
this establishment, sir — seventy-nine ; and do you dare to stand 
there and tell me that you ** 

"I assure you, madam, I have not the honour of his 
acquaintance.* 

"Not know the muffin-man! — ^you don't know the muffin- 
man ! Why, you contemptible stuck-up jackanapes " 

What the lady might have gone onto sav, it would be difficult 
to guess. She was not celebrated for the refinement of hef 
vocabulary when much provoked ; but at this moment a great 
stout man, one of the keepers, camo up, and cri^ ow.ti — 



172 Tlie Trail qf tie Serpent. 

" Holloa ! what's all tliis ! " 

"He sa3^s he doesn't know the muffin-man I" exclaimed the 
lady, her veil flying in the wind like a pennant, her arms 
akimbo, and the apple-green boots planted m a defiant manner 
on the gravel- walk. 

" Oh, we know liim well enough,** said the man, with a wink 
at Richard, "and very slack he bakes his muffins." Having 
uttered which piece of information connected with the gentle- 
man in question, the keeper strolled off, giving just one steady 
look straight into the eyes of the lively damsel, which seemed 
to have an instantaneous and most soothing effect upon her 
nerves. 

As all the lunatics allowed to disport themselves for an hour 
in the gardens of the establishment were considered to be, upon 
the whole, prettjr safe, the keepers were not in the habit of 
taking much notice of them. Those officials would congregate 
in h'ttle groups here and there, talking among themselves, 
and apparently utterly regardless of the unhappy beings over 
whom it was their duty to watch. But let Queen Victoria oi 
the Emperor Nero, Lady Jane Grey or Lord John Eussell, 
suffer themselves to be led away by their respective hobbies, or 
to ride those animals at too outrageous and dangerous a pace, 
and a strong hand would be laid upon the rider's shoulder, 
accompanied by a recommendation to " go in-doors," which waa 
very seldom disregarded. 

As Richard was this afternoon permitted to mix with his 
fellow-prisoners for the first time, the boy from Slopperton was 
ordered to keep an eye upon him ; and a very sharp eye th« 
boy kept, never for one moment allowing a look, word, or action 
of the prisoner to escape him. 

The keepers this afternoon were assembled near the portico, 
before which the gardens extended to the high outer wall. The 
ground between the portico and the wall was a little less than 
a quarter of a mile in length, and at the bottom was the grand 
entrance and the porter's lodge. The gardens surrounded the 
house on three sides, and on the left side the wall ran parallel 
with the river Sloshy. This river was now so much swollen by 
the late heavy rains that the waters washed the wall to the 
height of four feet, entirely covering the towing-path, which 
lay ordinarily between the wall and the waterside. 

Now Richard and the Emperor of the Waterworks, accom- 
panied by the ^shing charmer in the green boots, being all 
three engaged m friendly though rather erratic conversation, 
happened to stroll in the direction of the grounds on this side, 
and conseqiiently out of sight of the keepers. 

The boy from Slopperton was, however, close upon their 
heels. Tma young gentleman had lils hands in his pockets, 



The Emperor lids adieu to Elba, 173 

and was loitering and lounging along with an air which seemed 
to say, that neither man nor woman gave him any more dehght 
than tiiey had afforded the Danish prince of used-up memory 
Perhaps it was in utter weariness of life that he was, as if uncon- 
sciously, employed in whisthn^ the melody of a song, supposed 
to relate to a passage in the hfe of a young lady of the name 
of Gray, christian name Alice, whose heart it was another's, 
and consequently, by pure logic, never could belong to the 
singer. 

Kow there may be something infectious in this melody ; for 
no sooner had the boy from Slopperton whistled the first few 
bars, than some person in the distance outside the walls of the 
asylum gardens took up the air and finished it. A trifling 
circumstance tliis in itself; but it appeared to afford the boy 
considerable gratification; and he presently came suddenly 
upon Richard in the middle of a very interesting conversation, 
and whispered in his ear, or rather at his elbow, " All right, 
general ! Now as Richard, the Emperor of the Waterworks, 
and the only daughter of the Pope all talked at once, and all 
talked of entirely different subjects, their conversation might, 
perhaps, have been just a little distracting to a short-hand 
reporter; but as a conversation, it was really charming. 

Richard — still musing on the wild idea wnich was known in 
the asylum to have possessed his disordered brain ever since 
the day of his trial — was giving his companions an account of 
his escape from Elba. 

" I was determined," he said, taking the Emperor of the 
Watei-works by the button, "I was determined to make one 
desperate effort to return to my friends in France " 

*' Very creditable, to be sure," said the damsel of the green 
boots ; " your sentiments did you honour." 

"But to escape from the island was an enterprise of con- 
fiiderable difficulty," continued Richard. 

" Of course," said the damsel, ** considering the price of 
(lour. Flour rose a halfpenny in the bushel in the neigh- 
bourhood of Drury Lane, which, of course, reduced the size of 
muffins " 

•* And had a depressing effect ujwn the water-rates," inter- 
rupted the gentleman. 

"Now," continued Richard, "the island of Elba wag 
BuiTouuded by a high wall " 

" A very convenient arrangement ; of course facilitating the 
process of cutting off the water from the inhabitants," 
muttered the Emperor of the German Ocean. 

The boy Slosh again expressed his feelings with reference to 
A.Iico Gray, and some one ou the othw side of the wall coincided 
n?ith him. 



i 



174 The Trail of the Serpent. 

"And," said Richard, "on the top of this wall waa a 
chevaux-de-frise." 

" Dear me," exclaimed the Emperor, ^uite a what-you-may- 
call-it. I mean an extraordinary coincidence; we too have a 
chevanx-de-thing-a-me, for the purpose, I believe, of keeping 
out the cats. Cats are unpleasant; especially," he added, 
thoughtfully, "especially the Tom-sex — I mean the stemei 



sex." 



" To surmount this wall was my great difficulty." 

"Naturally, naturally," said the damsel, "a great under* 
taJdng, considering the faU in muffins~a dangerous under- 
taking." 

" There was a boat waiting to receive me on the other side," 
said Eichard, glancing at the wall, which was about a hundred 
yards distant from him. 

Some person on the other side of the wall had got a good 
deal nearer by this time ; and, dear me, how very much excited 
he was about Alice Gray. 

" But the q[uestion," Richard continued, " was how to climb 
the waJl," — stall looking up at the chovanx-de-frise. 

" I should have tried muffins," said the lady. 

" I should have cut off the water," remarked the gentleman. 

" I did neither," said Richard ; " I tried a rope." 

At this very moment, by some invisible agency, a thickly* 
knotted rope was thrown across the chevaux-de-friso, and the 
end fell within about four feet of the ground. 

" But her heart it is another's, and it never can be mine." 

The gentleman who couldn't succeed in ^vinning the affections 
of Miss Gray was evidently close to the wall now. 

In a much shorter time than the Ycry greatest master in the 
art of stenography could possibly have reported the occurrence, 
Richard threw the Emperor of the Waterworks half-a-dozen 
yards from him, with such violence as to cause that gentleman 
to trip-up the heels of the only daughter of the Pope, and fall in 
a heap upon that lady as on a feather bed ; and then, with the 
activity of a cat or a sailor, clambered up the rope, and dis- 
appeared over the chevaux-de-frise. 

The gentleman outside was now growing indifferent to the 
loss of Miss Gray, for he whistled the melody in a most 
triumphant manner, keeping time with the sharp plash of his 
oars in the water. 

It took the Emperor and his female friend some little time 
to recover from the effects of the concussion they had experi- 
enced, each from each ; and when they had done so, they sto<^)d 
for a few moments loukinff at one another in mute amazement. 

" The gentleman has left the establishment," at last said ih» 
lady. 



T7ie JSmperor bids adieu to Elba, 17S 

••And a bruise on my elbow," muttered the gentleman, 
robbing the locality in question. 

" Such a very unpolite manner of leaving too," raid the lady. 
" His muffias — I mean his manners — ^have evidently been very 
much neglected." 

"He must be a Chelsea householder," said the Emperor. 
** The householders of Chelsea are proverbial for bad manners. 
They are in the habit of slamming the door in the face of the 
tax-gatherer, with a view to injurmg the tip of his nose ; and 
I'm sure Lord Chesterfield never advised his son to do that." 

It may be as well here to state that the Emperor of the 
Waterworks had in early life been collector of the water-rate in 
the neighbourhood of Chelsea ; but having unfortunately given 
nis manly intellect to drinking, and being further troubled with 
a propensity for speculation (some people pronounced the word 
without the first letter), which involved the advantageous laying- 
out of his sovereign's money for his own benefit, he nad first lost 
his situation and ultimately his senses. 

His lady friend had once kept a baker's shop in the vicinity 
of Drury Lane; and happening, in an evil hour, at the ripe age 
of forty, to place her afiections on a young man of nineteen, 
the bent of whose genius was muffins, and bein^ slighted by 
the youth in question, she had retired into the gm-bottle, and 
thence had been passed to the asylum of her native country. 

Perhaps the inquiring reader will ask what the juvenile 
guardian of Eichard is doing all this time ? He has been told 
to keep an eye upon him ; and how has he kept his trust P 

He IS standing, very coolly, staring at the lady and gentle- 
man before him, and is apparently much interested in their 
conversation. 

" I shall certainly go," said the Emperor of the Waterworks, 
aftar a pause, " and inform the superintendent of this proceed- 
ing — ^tho superintendent ought really to know of it." 

" Superintendent " was, in the asylum, the polite name given 
the keepers, But just as the Emperor began to shamble off in 
the direction of the front of the house, the boy called Slosh 
flew past him and ran on before, and by the time the elderly 
gentleman reached the porch, the boy had told the astonished 
keepers the whole story of the escape. 

The keepers ran down to the gate, called to the porter to 
have it opened, and in a few minutes were in the road in front 
of it. They hurried thence to the river-side. There was not 
a sign of any human being on the swollen waters, except two 
men in a punt close to the opposite shore, who appeared to be 
eel-spearing. 

" Thei-e's no boat nearer than that," said one o£ tib^ TCkSSG^x 



*€ 



i 



176 The Trail of the Serpent . 

lie never could have readied that in this time if ho had beeri 
the best swimmer in England." 

The men took it for granted that they liad been informed oi 
his escajDe the moment it occurred. 

"Ifc must have jumped slap into the water," said another; 
"perhaps he's about somewhere, contriving to keep his head 
under." 

*' He couldn't do it," said the first man who had spoken ; 
" it's my opinion the poor chap's drowned. They will try these 
escapes, though no one ever succeeded yet." 

There was a boat moored at the angle of the asylum wall, 
and one of the men sprang into it. 

" Show me the place where he lumped over the wall," he 
called to the boy, wno pointed out the spot at his direction. 

The man rowed up to it. 

" Not a sign of him anywhere about here ! " he cried. 
Hadn't you better call to those men P " asked his comrade ; 

they must have seen him jump." 

The man in the boat nodded assent, and rowed across the 
river to the two fishermen. 

" Holloa I " he said, " have yon seen any one get over that 
wall?" 

One of the men, who had just impaled a fine eel, looked up 
with a suprised expression, and asked — 

" Which wall ? " 

" AVhy the asylum, yonder, straight before you." 

" The asylum ! Now, you don't mean to say that that's the 
asylum; and I've been taking it for a gentleman's mansion 
and grounds all the time," said the angler (who was no other 
than Mr. Augustus Darley), taking his pipe out of his mouth. 

" I wish you'd give a straight answer to my question," 
said the man ; " ha?7e you seen any one jump over that wall ; 
yes, or no ? " 

" Then, no ! " said Gus ; " if I had, I should have gone over 
and picked him up, shouldn't I, stupid ? " 

Tne other fisherman, Mr. Peters, here looked up, and laying 
down his eel-spear, spelt out some words on his fingers. 

"Stop a bit," cried Gus to the man, who was rowing off, 
"here's my friend says he heard a splash in the water ten 
minutes ago, and thought it was some rubbish shot over the 
wall." 

" Then he did jump I Poor chap, I'm afraid he must be 
drowned." 

" Drowned ?" 

" Yes ; don't I t«ll you one of the lunatics has been trying ta 
escape o^ er that wall« and must U^ve fi^OA i^to t]xe rivor F" 



Joy and IIaj)pin68s for Evefi/J>o3ff, 177 

"Wliy didn't you say so before, then?" said Gua. "What** 
to be done ? Where are there any drags ?" 

"Why, half a mile off, worse luck, at a public-house down 
the river, the * Jolly Life-boat.' '* 

" Then I'll tell you what," said Gus, " my friend and I will 
row down and fetch the drags, whilfe you chaps keep a look-out 
about here." 

" You're very good, sir," said the man ; ** dragging the river'i 
about all we can do now, for it strikes me we've seen the last of 
the Emperor Napoleon. My eyes ! won't there be a row about 
it with the Board !" 

** Heie we go," says Gus ; " keep a good heart ; he ma/ turn 
up yet;" with which encouraging remarks Messrs. Darley and 
Peters struck off at a rate which promised the speedy arrival of 
the drags. 



CHAPTER IV. 

JOT AOT) HAPPINESS FOR EVER'^fBODT. 

Wuethe:! the drags reached the county asylum in time to be 
of any service is still a mystery ; but Mr. Joseph Peters arrived 
with the punt at the boat-builder's yard in the dusk of the 
autumn evening. He was alone, and he left his boat, his 
tridents, and other fishing-tackle in the care of the men belong- 
ing to the yard, and then putting his hands in his pockets, 
trudged off in the direction of Little Gulliver Street. 

If ever Mr. Peters had looked triumphant in his life, he 
looked triumphant this evening : if ever his mouth had been on 
one side, it was on one side this evening ; but it was the twist 
of a conqueror which distorted that feature. 

Eight years, too, have done something for Kuppins. Time 
hasn't forgotten Kuppins, though she is a humble individuaL 
Time has touched up Kuppins ; adding a little bit here, and 
taking away a little bit there, and altogether producing some- 
thing rather imposing. Kuppins has grown. When that young 
lady had attained her tenth year, there was a legend current in 
little Gtdliver Street and its vicinity, that in consequence of a 
fatal predilection for gin-and-bitters evinced by her mother 
during the infancy of Kuppins, that diminutive person would 
never grow any more : but she gave the lie both to the legend 
and the gin-and-bitters by outgrowing her frocks at the ad- 
vanced age of seventeen ; and now she was rather a bouncing 
young woman than otherwise, and had a pair of such rosy 
cheeks as would have done honour to healthier breezes than 
those of Slopperton-on-the-Sloshy. 

'Xime had done something, too, fotKa'y^^ms?^ ^<;^ ^W^afiSiv 



!7B Tke n^atl of the Serpent. 

for it was now brushed, and combed, and dragged, and tortored 
into a state not so very far from smoothness ; and it was farther* 
more turned up ; an achievement in the hair-dressing line which 
it had taken her some vears to effect, and which, when effected, 
was perhaps a little calculated to remind the admiring beholder 
of a good sized ball of black cotton with a hair-pin stuck 
through it. 

What made Kuppins in such a state of excitement on this 
particular evening, who shall say P Certain it is that she was 
excited. At the first sound of the click of Mr. Peters's latch- 
key in the door of No. 6, Little GulHver Street, Kappins, with a 
lighted candle, flew to open it. How she threw her arms round 
Mr. Peters's neck and kissed him — ^how she left a lump of tallow 
in his hair, and a smell of burning in his whiskers — ^how, in her 
excitement she blew the candle out — and how, by a feat of leger- 
de-main, or leger-de-longs, she blew it in again, must have 
been seen to be sufficiently appreciated. Her next proceeding 
was to drag Mr. Peters upstairs into the indoor Eden, which 
bore the very same appearance it had done eight years ago. 
One almost expected to find the red baby grown up — ^but it 
wasn't ; and that dreadfal attack of the mumps from which the 
infant had suffered when Mr. Peters first became acquainted 
with it did not appear to have abated in the least. Kuppins 
thrust the detective into his own particular chair, planted herself 
in an opposite seat, put the candlestick on the table, snuffed 
the caacue, and then, wiUi her eyes opened to the widest extent, 
•ndently awaited his saying something. 

He did say something — ^iu his own way, of course ; the fingers 
went to work. " I've d — j— " said the fingers. 

***One it," cried Kuppins, dreadftdly excited by this time, 
"done it I you've done it I Didn't I always say you would P 
Didn't I know you would P Didn't I always dream you would, 
three times running, and a house on fireP — that meant the 
river; and an army of soldiers — ^that meant the boat; and 
everybody in black clothes— meaning joy and happiness. It's 
come true ; it's all come out. Oh, I'm so happy ! In proof of 
which Kuppins immediately commenced a series of evolutions 
of the limbs and exercises of the human voice, popularly known 
in the neighbourhood as strong hysterics — so strong, in fact, 
that Mr. Peters couldn't have held her still if he had tried. 
Perhaps that's why he didn't try ; but he looked about in every 
direction for sometliing cold to put down her back, and finding 
nothing handy but the poker, he stirred her up with that in the 
neighbourhooa of the spinal marrow, as if she had been a ba4 
fire ; whereon she came to. 

** And where'fl the blessed boy P'* she asked, presently. 
Mr, FetoTB signi&ed upon his fingers that tho bleesea boy WM 



Soy and Sappiness for Hverylody 179 

Btill at tlie asylnni, and that there he miist remaiii till such tiiuo 
as he should be able to leave without raising suspicion. 

"And to think,'* said Kuppins, "that we should have seen 
the advertisement for a boy to wait upon poor Mr. Marwood ; 
wid to think that we should have thought of sending our Slosh 
'/> take the situation ; and to think that he should have been so 
clever in helping you through with it ! Oh my !" As Kuppins 
here evinced a desire for a second edition of the hysterics, Mr. 
Peters changed the conversation by looking inquiringly towards 
a couple of saucepans on the fire." 

"Tripe," said Kuppins, answering the look, "and taters, 
floury ones;" whereon she began to lay the supper-table. 
Kuppins was almost mistress of the house now, for the elderly 
proprietress was a suJBferer from rheumatism, and kept to her 
room, enlivened by the society of a large black cat, and such 
gossip as Kuppins collected . about the neighbourhood in the 
oourse^ of the day and retailed to her mistress in the evening. 
So we' leave Mr. Peters smoking his pipe £«id roasting his legs 
at his own hearth, while Kuppins dishes the tripe and onions, 
and strips the floury potatoes of their russet jackets. 

Where all this time is the Emperor Napoleon P 

There are two gentlemen pacing up and down the platform of 
the Birmingham station, waiting K>r the 10 p.m. London express. 
One of them is Mr. Augustus Darley; the other is a man 
wrapped in a greatcoat, who has red hair and whiskers, and 
wears a pair of spectacles ; but behind these spectacles there are 
dark brown eyes, which scarcely match the red hair, any better 
than the pale dark complexion agrees with the very roseate hue 
of the whiskers. These two gentlemen have come across the 
country from a little station a few miles from Slopperton-on-the- 
Sloshy. 

" Well, Dick," said Darley, "doesn't this bring back old times, 
my boy P" 

The red-haired gentleman, who was smoking a cigar, took it 
from his mouth and clasped his companion by the hand, and 
said — 

" It does, Gus, old fellow ; and when I forget the share you've 

had in to-day's work, may I may I go back to that place 

and eat out my own heart, as I have done for eight years ! ' 

There was something so very like a mist behind his spectacles, 
and such an ominous thickness in his voice, as the red-haired 
gentleman said this, that Gus proposed a glass of brandy before 
the tram started. 

"Come, Dick, old fellow, you're quite womanish to-night, I 
declare. This won't do, you know. I shall have Ia ksL<5»^ ^osjk 
■ome of our old pals and make a ^oWij iii^^* oSL \^^«Wsa.^^ si^ ^ 




180 The Trail of the Serpent 

to London ; tliOTigli it will be to-morrow morning if you go on 
m this way." 

" I'll tell yon what it is, Gns," replied the red-haired gentle- 
man, "nobody who hadn't ^one throngh what I've gone through 
conld tell what I feel to-night. I thint, Gus, I shall end by 
being mad in real earnest ; and that my release will do what my 
imprisonment even conldn't effect — ^trun my brain. But I say, 
Gus, tell me, tell me the truth ; did any of the old fellows — did 
they ever think me guilty P** 

" Not one of them, Dick, not one ; and I know if one of them 
had so much as hinted at such a thought, the others would have 
throttled him before he could have said the words. Have another 
drop of brandy," lie said hastily, thrusting the glass into his 
hand; ** you've no more pluck tlian a kitten or a woman, Dick." 

" I had pluck enough to bear eight years of that," said the 
young man, pointing m the direction of Slopperton, " but this 
does rather Knock me over. My mother, you'll write to her, 
Gus — ^the sight of my hand might upset her, without a word of 
warning — ^you'll write and tell her that I've got a chance of 
escaping; and then you'll write and say that I have escaped. 
We must guard against a shock, Gus ; she has suffered too much 
already on my account." 

At this moment the bell rang for the train's starting: the 
young men took their seats in a second-class carriage ; and away 
sped the engine, out through the dingy manufacturing town, 
into the open moonlit country. 

Gus and Eichard light their cigars, and wrap themselves in 
their railway rugs. Gus throws himself back and drops off to 
sleep (he can almost smoke in his sleep), and in a quarter of an 
hour he is dreaming of a fidgety patient who doesn't Hke comic 
songs, and who can never see the point of a joke ; but who has 
three pretty daughters, and who pays his bill every Christmas 
without even looking at the items. 

But Richard Marwood doesn't go to sleep. Will he ever sleep 
•gain P Will his nerves ever regain their tranquillity, after the 
intense excitement of the last tiiree or four days ? He looks 
back — ^looks back at that hideous time, and wonders at its hope- 
less suffering — wonders till he is obliged to wrench his mind 
away from tiie subject, for fear he should go mad. How did he 
ever endure itP How did he ever live through itP He had no 
means of suicide P Pshaw ! he might have dashed out his brains 
against the wall. He might have resolutely refused food, and 
so have starved himself to death. How did he endure it. Eight 
years! Eight centuries! and every hour a fresh age of anguish I 
liooking back now, he knows, what then he did not know, that 
at the worst — ^that in his bitterest despair, there was a vague 

de£ned something, so vague and nndefined that he did not 



The Cherokees iaJce an Oath, . 181 

recogiiiso it for itself— a glimmering ray of hope, by the aid o! 
which alone he bore the dreadful burden of his days ; and with 
tlasped hands and bent head he renders np to that God from 
whose pity came this distant light a thanksgiving, which per- 
Eaj^s is not the less sincere and neartfelt for a hundred recMess 
words, said long ago, which rise up now in his mind a shame 
and a reproach. 

Perhaps it was such a trial as this that Bichard Marwood 
wanted, to make him a good and earnest man. Something to 
awaken dormant energies ; something to arouse the better feel- 
ings of a noble soul, to stimulate to action an intellect hitherto 
wasted; something to throw him back upon the God he had 
forgotten, and to make him ultimately that which God, in 
creating such a tnan, meant him to become. 

Away flies the engine. Was there ever such an open country? 
Was there ever such a moonlight night? Was earth ever so 
fair, or the heavens ever so bright, since man's universe was 
created P Not for Richard ! He is free ; free to breathe that 
blessed air; to walk that glorious earth; free to track to his 
doom the murderer of his uncle. 

In the dead of the night the express train rattles into the 
Euston Square station ; Richard and Gus spring out, and lump 
into a cab. Even smoky London, asleep under the moonlight, 
is beautiful in the eyes of Daredevil Dick, as they rattle through 
the deserted streets on the way to their destination. 



CHAPTER V. 

THE CHEROKEES TAKE AN QATTT. 

The cab slops in a narrow street in the neighbourhood of Drury 
Lane, before the door of a small public-house, which announces 
itself, in tamirhdd gilt letters on a dirty board, as " The Chero- 
kee, by Jim StiI*on." Jim Stilson is a very distinguished pro- 
fessor of the noLle art of self-defence ; and (in consequence of 
a peculiar playful knack he has with his dexter fist) is better 
known to his rrvmds and the general public as the Left-handed 
Smasher. 

Of course, at this hour of the night, the respectable hostelry 
is wrapped in thai repose which befits the house of a landlord 
who puts up his shutters and locks his door as punctually as the 
clocks of St. Mary-le- Strand and St. Clement Danes strike 
the midnight hour. There is not so much as the faintest glim- 
mer of a rushlight in one of the upper windows; but for all 
that, Richard and Darley alight, and having dismissed the cab, 
Gus looks up and down the street to see that it is clear, puts hisk 
IU)S to the keyhole of the door of ^r. ^\ii\.^a\)L^'W&\f^^^ ^«5sA 



i 



182 The Ti*ail of the Serpent. 

gives an excellent imitation of the feeble mianw of an invalid 
member of the feline species. 

Perhaps the Left-handed Smasher is tender-hearted, and 
nonrishes an affection for distressed grimalkins ; for the door is 
softly opened— just wide enongh to admit Richard and his friend; 

The person who opens the door is a young lady, who has 
apparently being surprised in the act of putting her hair in 
curl-papers, as she hurriedly thrusts her brush and comb in 
among the biscuits and meat-pies in a corner of the bar. She 
is evidently very sleepy, and rather inclined to yawn in Mr. 
Augustus barley's face ; but as soon as they are safe inside, she 
fastens the door and resumes her station behind the bar. ThcrA 
is only one gas-lamp alight, and it is rather difficult to beheve 
that the gentleman seated in the easy-chair before an expiring 
fire in the bar-parlour, his noble head covered with a red cotton 
bandanna, is neither more nor less than the immortal Left-handed 
one ; but he snores loud enough for the whole prize-ring, and 
the nervous listener is inclined to wish that he had made a point 
of clearing his head before he went to sleep. 

**Well, Sophia Maria," says Mr. Dariey, "are they all up 
there?" pointing in the direction of a door that leads to the 
stairs. 

" Most every one of 'em, sir ; there's no getting 'em to bref.,k 
np, nohow. Mr. Splitters has been and wrote a drama for the 
victoria Theayter, and they've been a-chaffing of him awful 
because there's fifteen murders, and four low-comedy servants 
that all say, * No you don't,' in it. The guv'nor had to go up 
just now, and talk to 'em, for they was a throwin' quart pots 
at each other, playful." 

" Then I'll run up, and speak to them for a minute," said Gua. 
"Come along, Dick." 

"How about your friend, sir," remonstrated the Smasher'g 
Hebe; "he isn't a Cheerful, is he, sirP" 

" Oh, I'U answer for him," said Gus. " It's all right, Sophia 
Maria ; bring us a couple of glasses of brandy-and- water hot, 
and tell the Smasher to step up, when I ring tne bell." 

Sophia Maria looked doubtfully from Gus to the slumbering 
host, and said — 

" He'll wake np savage if I disturb him. He's off for his 
first sleep now, and he'll go to bed as soon as the place is clear." 

" Never mind, Sophia ; wake him up when I ring, and send 
\um upstairs ; he'll find something there to put him in a good 
temper. Gome, Dick, tumble np. You know the way." 

The Cheerful Cherokees made their proximity known by such 
a stifiing atmosphere of tobacco about the staircase as would 
have certainly suffocated anyone not initiated in their mysteries. 
One opened the door of a back room on the first floor, of a much 



The Clerokfi9§ take cm Oath. jgs 

larger size than the general appearance of tlie house wonid have 
promised. This room was mU of gentlemen, who, in age, size^ 
costume, and personal advantages, varied as mnch as it is possible 
for any one roomful of gentlemen to do. Some of them were 
playing billiards ; some of them were looking on, betting on the 
players ; or more often upbraiding them for such play as, in the 
Cheerful dialect, came under the sweeping denunciation of the 
Cherokee adjective "duffing." Some of them were eating a 
peculiar compound entitled "Welsh rarebit" — a pleasant pre- 
paration, if it had not painfully reminded the casual observer 
of mustard-poultices, or yellow soap in a state of solution — 
while lively friends knocked the ashes of their pipes into their 
plates, abstracted their porter just as they were about to imbibe 
that beverage, and in like fascinating manner beguiled the festive 
hour. One gentieman, a young Cherokee, had had a i*arebit, 
and had gone to sleep with his Jiead in his plate and his eye- 
brows in his mustard. Some were playing cards; some were 
playing dominoes ; one gentleman was m tears, because the double 
six he wished to play had fallen into a neighbouring spittoon, 
and he lacked either the moral courage or the physical energy 
requisite for picking it up ; but as, with the exception of &e 
sleepy gentleman, everybody was talking very loud and on an 
entirely different subject, the effect was livefy, not to say dis- 
tracting. 

" Gentlemen," said Gus, " I have the honour of bringing a 
friend, whom I wish to introduce to you." 

" All right, Gus !" said the gentleman engaged at dominoes, 
" that's the cove I ought to play," and fixing one half-open eye 
on the spotted ivory, he lapsed into a series of imbecile impre- 
cations on everybody in general, and the domino in particular. 

Bichard took a seat at a littie distance from this gentleman, 
and at the bottom of the long table — a seat sacred on grand 
occasions to the vice-chairman. Some rather noisy lookers-on 
at the billiards were a little inclined to resent this, and muttered 
something about Dick's red wig and whiskers, in connection 
with the popular accompaniments to a boiled round of beef. 

" I say, Darley," cried a gentleman, who held a billiard-cue in 
his hand, and had been for some time impotently endeavouring 
to smooth his hair with the same. " I say, old fellow, I hope 
your friend's committed a murder or two, because then Splitters 
can put him in a new piece." 

Splitters, who had for four hours been in a state of abjed 
miseiy, from the unmerciful allusions to his last chef d'oBuvre, 
gave a growl from a distant comer of the table, where he wa« 
seeking consolation in everybody else's glass ; and as everybody 
drank a different beverage, was not improving his state of mind 
thereby. 



I 



184 . The Trail of the Serpent 

**My firiend never committed a murdsr in bis life, Splitter^ 
BO ho won't dramatize on that score ; but he's been accused of one ; 
and he's as innocent as yon are, who never murdered any thing in 
your life but Lindley Murray and the language of your country." 

" Who's been murdering somebody ?" said the domino-player, 

Eassing his left hand through his hair, till his chevclure resem- 
led a turk's-head broom. " Who's murdered P I wish everybody 
was ; and that I could dance my favourite dance upon their 
graves. Blow that double-six ; he's the fellow I ought to play." 

" Perhaps you'll give us your auburn-haired fnend's name, 
Darley," said a gentleman with his mouth full of Welsh rarebit ; 
** he doesn't seem too brilHant to live ; he'd better have gone to 
the 'Deadly Livelies,' in the other street." The "Deadly 
LiveHes" was the sobriquet of a rival club, which plumed itself 
on being a cut above the Cherokees. ** Who's dead ?" muttered 
the domino-player. ** I wish everybody was, and that I was con- 
tracted with to bury 'em cheap. I should have won the game," 
he added plaintively, " if I could have picked np that double-six.'* 

" I suppose your friend wants to be Vice at our next meeting," 
said the gentleman with the biUiard-cue ; who, in default of a 
row, always complained that the assembly was too quiet for him. 

" It wouldn't be the first time if he were Vice, and it wouldn't 
be the first time if you made him Chair," said Gus. "Come, 
old fellow, tell them you're come back, and ask them if they're 
glad to see you P" 

The red-haired gentleman at this sprang to his feet, thre^ off 
the rosy locks ana the ferocious whiskers, and looked round at 
the Cherokees with his hands in his pockets. 

"Daredevil Dick!" A shout arose — one brief wild huzza, 
such as had not been heard in that room — ^which, as we know, 
was none of the quietest — ^within the memory of the oldest 
Cherokee. Daredevil Dick — escaped — come bact — as handsome 
as ever — as jolly as ever — as glorious a fellow — as thorough- 
going a brick — as noble-hearted a trump as ei^ht years ago, 
when he had been the life and soul of all of them! such shaking 
of hands ; everybody shaking hands with him again and again, 
and then everybody shaking hands with everybody else; and 
the billiard-player wiping his eyes with his cue \ and the sleepy 
gentleman wakmg up and rubbing the mustard into his drowsy- 
optics; and the domino-player, who, though he execrates all 
manldnd, wouldn't hurt the tiniest wing of the tiniest fly, even 
he makes a miraculous effort, picks up the double-six, and mag- 
nanimously presents it to Eichard. 

" Take it— take it, old fellow, and may it make yon happy I 
If I'd played that domino, I should have won the game." Upon 
which he executed two or three steps of a Cherokee dance, and 

~ .psed into the foresaid imbecile imprecation r, in mixed 



|w»] 



The ClieroJcees taTce an Oath. 185 

Frencli and English, on the inhabitants of a world not capable 
of appreciating him. 

It was a long time before anything lite qniet conld be re* 
Btored ; but when it was, Bichard addressed the meeting. 

" Gentlemen, before the nnfortnnate circumstance which has 
so long separated us, you knew me, I believe, well, and I am 
proud to think you esteemed and trusted me." 

Did they P Oh, rather. They jingled all the glasses, and 
broke three in the enthusiastic protestation of an amrmative. 

" I need not allude to the unhappy accusation of which I 
have been the victim. You are, I understand, acquainted with 
the full particulars of my miserable stoiy, and you render me 
happy by thinking me to be innocent." 

By tmnking him to be innocent P By knowing him to be 
innocent ! They are so indignant at the bare thought of any- 
body beheving otherwise, that somebody in the doorway, the 
Smasher himself, growls out something about a — forcible adjec- 
tive — noise, and the poHce. 

" Gentlemen, I have this day regained mj hberty ; thanks to 
the exertions of a person to whom I am also indebted for my life, 
and thanks also to the assistance of my old friend Gus Darley." 

Everybody here insisted on shaking hands over again with 
Giis, which was rather a hindrance to the speaker's progress ; 
but at last Richard went on, — 

" Now, gentlemen, relying on your friendship" (hear, hear ! 
and another glass broken), " I am about to appeal to you to 
assist me in the future object of my life. That object will be to 
discover the real murderer of my uncle, Montague Harding. In 
what manner, when, or where you may be able to assist me in 
this, I cannot at present say, but you are all, gentlemen, men of 
talent." (More glasses broken, and a good deal of beer spilt 
into everybody's boots.) " You are all men of varied expe- 
rience, of inexhaustible knowledge of the world, and of the 
life of London. Strange things happen every day of our lives. 
Who shall say that some one amongst you may not fall, by some 
strange accident, or let me say rather by the handiwork of 
Providence, across a clue to this at present entirely unravelled 
mystery P Promise me, therefore, gentlemen, to give me the 
benefit of your experience; and whenever that experience throws 
you into the haunts of bad men, remember that the man I seek 
may, by some remote chance, be amongst them ; and that to 
find h\m is the one object of my life. I cannot give you the 
faintest index to what he may be, or who he may be. He may 
be dead, and beyond the reach of justice — but he may Hve! and 
if he does, Heaven grant that the man who has suffered the 
stigma of his guilt may track him to his doom. Geutlemen^ 
tell me that your hearts go with m©*** 



i 



186 The Trail qf tie Serpeni. 

Thej told him so, not once, but a dozen times; Bbaldng Iianda 
with mm, and pnshing divers liqnors into his hand evei^ time. 
But they got over it at last, and the gentleman with the billiard- 
cne rapp^ their heads with that mstrmnent to tranquillize 
them, and then rose as president, and said, — 

" Richard Marwood, onr hearts go with yon, thoroughly and 
entirely, and we swear to give you the best powers of our in- 
tellects and the utmost strength of our abilities to aid you in your 
search. Gentlemen, are you prepared to subscribe to this oatn P " 

They were prepared to subscribe to it, and they did subscribe 
to it, every one oi them — ^rather noisily, but very heartily. 

When they had done so, a gentleman emerges from the 
shadow of ilie doorway, who is no other than the iflustrious left- 
handed one, who had come upstairs in answer to Darley's sum- 
mons, just before Bichard addressed the Oherokees. The 
Smasher was not a handsome man. His nose had been broken 
a good many times, and that hadn't improved him ; he had a 
considerable number of scars about his face, including almost 
every known variety of cut, and they didn't improve hirn. His 
complexion, again, bore perhaps too close a resemblance to mot- 
tled soap to come within the region of the beautifdl ; but ho 
had a fine and manly expression of countenance, which, in his 
amiable moments, reminded the beholder of a benevolent bulldog. 

He came up to Eichard, and took him by the hand. It was 
no small ordeal of courage to shake hands with the Left-handed 
Smasher, but Daredevil Dick stood it like a man. 

" Mr. Eichard Marwood," said he, "youVe been a good friend 
to me, ever since you wp.5! old enough — " he stopped here, and 
cast about in his mind for the fitting jjursuits of early youth — 
" ever since you was old enough to give a cove a black eye, or 
knock your friend's teeth down his throat with a light back- 
hander. I've known you down stairs, a-swearin' at the bar- 
maid, and holdiii' your own agin the whole lot of the Oheerfuls, 
when other young gents of your age was a-makin' themselves 
bad with sweetstuns and green apples, and callin' it life. I've 
known you help that gent yonder," he gave a jerk with his 
thumb m the direction of the domino-player, •* to wrench off his 
own pa's knocker, and send it to him by twopenny post next 
momm', seventeen and sixpence to pay postage ; but I never 
know'd you to do a bad action, or to nit out upon a cove as was 
down." 

Eichard thanked the Smasher for his good opinion, and they 
shook hands again. 

" I'll tell you what it is," continued the host, " I'm a man of 

few words. If a cove olfends me, I give him my left between 

his ejes, playful ; if he does it agen, I give him my left agen, 

fnth a meottin', and be don't lepeat it. If a gent as I Hke doea 



Mr, Peters loses his Cliie. 187 

me proTidf I feels grateful, and when I has a cliance I sliowg 
him my gratitude. Mr. Richard Marwood, Fm your friend to 
the last spoonful of my claret ; and let the man as murdered 
your uncle keep dear of my left mawley, if he wants to preserve 
lus beauty." 

CHAPTER VI. 

MB. PXTEBS SELATES HOW HE THOUGHT HE UAt A CLUE^ AED 

HOW HE LOST IT. 

A WEEK after the meeting of the Oherokees Richard Marwood 
received his mother, in a small furnished house he had taken in 
Spring Gardens. Mrs. Marwood, possessed of the entire fortune 
of her murdered brother, was a very rich woman. Of her large 
income she had, during the eight years of her son*s imprison- 
ment, spent scarcely anything; as, encouraged by Mr. JosepV 
Peters's mysterious hints and va^e promises, she had looked 
forward to the deliverance of her beloved and only child. The 
hour had come. She held him in her arms again, free. 

" No, mother, no," he says, ** not free. Free from the prison 
walls, but not free from the stain of the false accusation. Not 
tiU the hour when all England declares my innocence shall I be 
indeed a free man. "Why, look you, mother, I cannot go out of 
this room into yonder street without such a disguise as a mur- 
derer himself might wear, for fear some Slopperton official 
should recognise the features of the lunatic crimmal, and send 
me back to my cell at the asylum." 

" My darling boy," she lays her hands upon his shoulders, and 
looks proudly mto his handsome face, " my darling boy, these 

Ceople at Slopperton think you dead. See," she toucned her 
lack dress as she spoke, " it is for you I wear this. A painful 
deception, Richard, even for such an object. I cannot bear to 
think of that river, and of what might nave been." 

" Dear mother, I have been saved, perhaps, that I may make 
some atonement for that reckless, wicked past." 

" Only reckless, Richard ; never wicked. You had always 
the same noble heart, always the same generous soul; you 
were always my dear and only son." 

"You remember what the young man says in the play, 
mother, when he gets into a scrape through neglecting ma 
garden and making love to his master's daughter — * You shall 
Be proud of your son yet.' " 

" I shall he proud of you, Richard. I am proud of yori. We 
are rich ; and wealth is power. Justice shall be done you yet, 
my darling boy. You have friends " 

"Yes, mother, good and true ones. Peters— yon brought 
him with yon P " 



i 



188 The Trail of the Serpent. 

"Yes; I persnaded him to resign Ids situation. I hav« 
settled a hundred a year on him for life — a poor return for 
what he has done, Bicnard ; but it was all I could induce him 
to accept, and he onlj a^eed to take that on condition that 
every moment of his life snould be devoted to your service." 

" Is he in the house now, mother P " 

" Yes, he is below ; I will ring for him." 

** Do, mother. I must go over to Darley, and take him with 
me. You must not think me an inattentive or neglectful son ; 
but remember that my life has but one business till that man is 
found." 

He wrung her hand, and left her standing at the window 
watching his receding figure through the quiet dusky street. 

Her gratitude to Heaven for his restoration is deep and 
heartfelt ; but there is a shade of sadness in her face as she 
looks out into the twih'ght after him, and thinks of the eight 
wasted years of his youth, and of his bright manhood now spent 
on a chimera ; for she thinks he will never find the murderer 
of his uncle. How, after eight years, without one clue by 
which to trace him, how oan he hope to track the real criminal P 

But Heaven is above us all, Agnes Marwood ; and in the 
dark and winding paths of life light sometimes comes when and 
whence we least expect it. 

If you go straight across Blackfriars Bridge, and do not 
suffer yourself to be beguiled either by the attractions of that 
fashionable transpontine lounge, the "New Cut," or by the 
eloquence of the last celebrity at that circular chapel some time 
sacred to Rowland Hill — if you are not a man to be led away 
by whelks and other piscatorial delicacies, second-hand furni- 
ture, birds and bird-cages, or easy shaving, you may ultimately 
reach, at the inland end of the road, a locality known to the 
inhabitants of. the district of Friar Street. Whether, in any 
dark period of our ecclesiastical history, the members of the 
mother church were ever reduced to the necessity of living in 
this neighbourhood I am not prepared to say. But if ever any 
of the magnates of the Cathohc faith did hang out in this 
direction, it is tx) be hoped that the odours from the soap- 
boiler's round the comer, the rich essences from the tallow 
manufactory over the way, the varied perfumes from the esta* 
blishment of the gentleman who does a thousand pounds a 
week in size, to say nothing of such minor and domestic effluvia 
as are represented by an amalgamation of red herrings, damp 
corduroy, old boots, onions, washing, a chimney on fire, dead 
cats, bad eggs, and an open drain or two — it is to be hoped, I 
say, that these conflicting scents did not pervade the breezes of 
-Friar Street so strongly in the good old times as they do in 
ibese our later da^ja of luxury and xefinemeut. 



Mr, Feters loses his Clue. 189 

Mr. Barley's establishment, ordinarily spoken oi as *he 
surgery par excellence, was perhaps one of the most pretenc'ing 
featnres of the street. It asserted itself, in fact, with snch a 
redundancy of gilt letters and gas bnmers, that it seemed to 
say, " Really now, you must be iS ; or if you're not, you ought 
to be." It was not a very large house, this establishment of 
Mr. Parley's, but there were at least half-a-dozen bells on the 
doorpost. There was Surgery ; then there was Day and Night 
(Gus wanted to have Morning and Afternoon, but somebody 
told him it wasn't professional) ; then there was besides sur- 
gery, day, and night bells, another brilliant brass knob, inscribed 
** Visitors," and a ditto ditto, whereon was engraved " Shop." 
Though, as there was only one small back-parlour beyond the 
shop into which visitors ever penetrated, and as it was the 
custom for all such visitors to walk straight through the afore- 
said shop into the aforesaid parlour without availing themselves 
of any bell whatever, the brass knobs were looked upon rather 
in the light of a conventionality than a convenience. 

But Gus said they looked like business, especially when they 
were clean, which wasn't always, as a couple of American gen- 
tlemen, friends of Darley's, were in the habit of squirting 
tobacco-juice at them from the other side of the way, in the 
dusky twilight ; the man who hit the brass ofbenest out of six 
times to be the winner, and the loser to stand beer all the 
evening— that is to say, until some indefinite time on the 
foUowing morning, for Darley's parties seldom broke up very 
early ; and to let the visitors out and take the morning milk in 
yas often a simultaneous proceeding in the household of our 
young surgeon. 

If ne had been a surgeon only, he would surely have been a 
Sir Benjamin Brodie ; for when it is taken into account that lie 
could play the piano, organ, guitar, and violoncello, without 
having learned any of those instruments ; that he could write a 
song, and compose the melody to it ; that he could draw horses 
and dogs after Herring and Landseer ; make more puns in one 
sentence than any burlesque writer living ; make love to half-a- 
dozen women at once, and be believed by every one of them ; 
sing a comic song, or tell a funny story ; name the winner of 
the Derby safer than any prophet on that side of the water ; 
and make his book for the Leger with one hand while he wrote 
a prescription with the other; the discriminating reader will 
allow that there was a gpod deal of some sort of talent or other 
in the composition of Mr. Augustus Darley. 

In the twilight of this particular autumn evening he is busily 
engaged putting up a heaj) of little packets labelled " Best 
Epsom Salts," while his assistant, a very small youths of a» fei 
more elderly appearance than bia m«kS\.et,'^^DJ^Vifta ^gaa^, ^^&fia|| 



i 



100 ne Trail of the Serpent. 

half-glass door tliat commTmicates with the little baok ]>arloai 
is ajar, and Gns is talking to some one within. 

" If I ^ over the water to-ni^ht, Bell — " he says. 

A feminine voice from withm interrupts him — "But yon 
won't go to-night, Gus; the last time yon went to that horrid 
Smasher's, Mrs. Tompkins's little boy was ill, and they sent 
into the London Eoad for Mr. Parker. And yon are snch a 
favonrite with eveiybody, dear, that they say if you'd only stay 
at home always, you'd nave the best practice in the neighbour- 
hood." 

" But, Bell, how can a fellow stay at home night after night, 
and perhaps half hi^ time only sell a penn'orth of salts or a 
poor man's piaster? If they'd be ill," he added, almost 
savagely, " I wouldn't mind stopping in ; there's some interest 
in that. Or if they'd come and have their teeth drawn ; but 
they never will : and I'm sure I sell 'em our Infallible Anti- 
toothache Tincture; and if that don't make 'em have their 
ieeth out, nothing wilL" 

** Gome and have your tea, Gus ; and tell Snix to bring his 
basin.'* 

Snix was the boy, who forthwith drew from a cupboard under 
the counter the identical basin into which, when a drunken man 
was brought into the shop, Gus usually bled him, with a double 
view of obtaining practice in his art and bringing the patient 
back to consciousness. 

The feminine occupant of the parlour is a young lady with 
dark hair and grey eyes, and something under twenty years of 
age. She is Augustus Barley's only sister; she keeps his 
house, and in an emergency she can make up a prescription — 
nay, has been known to draw a juvenile patient's first tooth, 
and give him his money back after the operation for the pur- 
chase of consolatoiy swe^tstaffs. 

Perhaps Isabel barley is just a little what very prim young 
ladies, who have never passed the confines of the boarding- 
school or the drawing-room, might call " fast." But when it 
is taken into consideration that she was left an orphan at an 
early age, that she never went to school in her hie, and that 
she has for a very considerable period been in the habit of 
associating with her brother's friends, chiefly members of the 
Cherokee Society, it is not so much to be wondered at that she 
is a little more masculine in her attainments, and " go-ahead " 
in her opinions, than some others of her sex. 

The parlour is small, as has before been stated. One of the 

Cherokees has been known to suggest, when there were several 

visitors present and the time arrived for their departure, that 

they should be taken out singly with a corkscrew. Other 

Cherokees, amying a£her the room had. been filled with visitors, 



Xr. J?eter$ loaeM hU Clue. 191 

had been heard to advise tliat somebody should go in first with 
a candle, to ascertain whether vitality coxdd be sustained in the 
atmosphere. Perhaps the accommodation was not extended by 
the character of the furniture, which consisted of a cottage 
piano, a chair for the purposes of dental surgery, a small 
Corinthian column supporting a basin with a metal plug and 
chain useful for like purposes ; also a violonceUo in the comer, 
a hanging bookshelf---(wnich was a torture to tall Oherokees, 
as one touch from a manly head would tilt down the shelves 
and shower the contents of "Mr, Barley's library on the head in 
question, like a literary waterfall) — and a good-sized sofa, with 
tnat unmistakable well, and hard back and arms, which distin- 
guish the genus sofa-bedstead. Of course tables, chairs, chine 
ornaments, a plaster-of-Paris bust here and there, caricatures on 
tlie walls, a lamp that wouldn't bum, and a patent arrangement 
for the manufacture of toasted cheese, are trifles in the way of 
furniture not worth naming. Miss Barley's birds, again, though 
they did spill seed and water into the eyes of unoffending 
visitors, and drop lumps of dirty sugar sharply down u^on the 
noses of the same, could not of course be considered a nuisance; 
but certainly the compound surgery and back-parlour in the 
mansion of Augustus Barley was, to say the least, a little too 
full of furniture. 

While Isabel is pouring out the tea, two gentlemen open the 
shop door, and the bell attached thereto, which should rmg but 
doesn't, catching in the foremost visitor's foot, nearly precipi- 
tates him headlong into the emporium of the discmle of 
Esculapius. This foremost visitor is no other than Mr. reters, 
and the tall figure behind him, wrapped in a greatcoat, is Bare- 
devil Bick. 

" Here I am, Gus I " he cries out, in his own bold hearty 
voice ; " here I am ; found your place at last, in spite of the 
fascinations of half the stale shell-fish in the United Kingdom. 
Here I am ; and here's the best friend I have in the world, not 
even excepting yourself, old fellow." 

Gus introduces Eichard to his sister Isabel, who has been 
taught from her childhood to look upon the young man shut up 
in a lunatic asylum down at Slopperton as the greatest hero, 
next to Napoleon Buonaparte, that ever the world nad boasted. 
She was a little girl of eleven years old at the time of Bick'g 
trial, and had never seen her wUd brother's wilder companion; 
and she looks up now at the dark handsome face with a glance 
of almost reverence in her deep gray eyes. But Bell is oy no 
means a heroine; and she has a dozen unheroine-like occu- 
pations. She has the tea to pour out, and in her nervous 
excitement she scalds Eichard^ fingers, drops the sugar int«^ 
the 8lcf>-ba8in^ and pours all the miilk \xl\.o qt^s^ ^^^^ ^^ ' 



i 



1J)2 The Trail of the Serpent. 

What slie would have done without the assistance of Mt. 
Peters, it is impossible to say; for that gentleman showed 
himself the very genius of order ; cut thin bread-and-butter 
enough for half-a-dozen, which not one of the party touched ; 
re-filled the teapot before it was empty ; lit the gas-lamp which 
hung from the ceiling; shut the door which communicated 
with the shop and the other door which led on to the staircase ; 
and did aU so quietiy that nobody knew he was doing an3rthing. 

Poor Eichard ! Li spite of the gratitude and happiness he 
feels in his release, there is a gloom upon his brow and an 
abstraction in his manner, which ne tries m vain to shake off. 

A small, round, chubby individual, who might be twelve or 
twenty, according to the notions of the person estimating her 
age, removed the tea-tray, and in so doing broke a saucer. Gus 
looked up. "She always does it," he said, mildly. "We're 
getting quite accustomed to the sound. It rather reduces our 
stock of china, and we sometimes are obliged to send out to buy 
tea-things before we can have any breakfast ; but she's a good 
girl, and she doesn't steal the honey, or the jujubes, or the 
tartaric acid out of the seidlitz-powders, as the other one did ; 
not that I minded that much," he continued ; " but she couldn't 
read, and she sometimes filled up the papers with ai'senic for 
fear of being found out; and that might nave been inconvenient, 
if we'd eyer happened to sell them." 

" Now, Gus," said Eichard, as he drew his chair up to the 
fireplace and lit his pipe — permission being awarded by Boll, 
who lived in one perpetual atanosphere of tobacco-smoke — " now, 
Gus, I want Peters to tell you all about this affair ; how it was 
he thought me innocent ; now he hit upon the plan he formed 
for saving my neck ; how he tried to cast about and find a clue 
to the real murderer ; how he thought he had found a clue, and 
how he lost it." 

" Shall my sister stop while he tells the story P " asked Gus. 

" She is your sister, Gus," answered Eichard. " She cannot 
be so unlike you as not to be a true and pitying friend to me. 
Miss Darley," he continued, turning towards her as he spoke, 
" you do not think me quite so bad a fellow as the world has 
made me out ; you would like to see me righted, and my })aiae 
freed from the stain of a vile crime?" 

" Mr. Marwood," the gii-1 answered, in an earnest voice, " I 
have heard your sad story again and again from my brother's 
lips. Had you too been my brother, I could not, believe me, 
have felt a deeper interest in your fate, or a truer sorrow for 
your misfortunes. It needs but to look into your face, or hear 
your voice, to know how little you deserve the imputation that 
tas been cast upon you." 
Bicbard rises and gives her bis hand. No languid and ladp 



Mr, Fetm*8 loses his Clue. 193 

fike pressure, sacli as would not brush the down off a butter- 
fly's wing, but an honest hearty grasp, that comes straight 
from the neart, 

" And now for Mr. Peters's story," said Gus, ** while I brew 
a jugful of whisky-punch." 

" You can follow his hands, Gus P " asks Bichard. 

"Every twist and turn of them. He and I had many a 
confab about you, old fellow, before we went out fishing," said 
Gus, looking up from the pleasing occupation of peeding a 
lemon. 

" Now for it, then," said Eichard ; and Mr. Peters accord- 
ingly began. 

Perhaps, considering his retiring from the Slopperton poHce 
force a great event, not to say a crisis, in his life, Mr. Peters 
had celebrated it by another event ; and, taking the tide of his 
affairs at the flood, had availed himself of the water to wash 
his hands with. At any rate, the digital alphabet was a great 
deal cleaner than when, eight years ago, he spelt out the two 
words, " Not guilty," in the railway carriage. 

There was something very strange to a looker-on in the little 
party, Gus, Eichard, and Bell, all with earnest eyes fixed on the 
active fingers of the detective — ^the silence only broken by some 
exclamation at intervals from one of the three. 

"When first I see this young gent," say the fingers, as 
Mr. Peters designates Eichard with a jerk of his elbow, " I 
was a-standin' on the other side of the way, a-waitin* till my 
superior. Jinks, as was as much up to his business as a kitting, 
— (Mj[. Peters has rather what we may call a fancy style of 
orthography, and takes the final g off some words to clap it oa 
to others, as his taste dictates) — " a-waitin,' I say, till Jinjbi 
shoxdd want my assistance. Well, gents all — ^beggin' the la^'s 
parding, as sits up so manly, with none of yer faintin* nor 
steriky games, as I almost K)rgot she was a lady — no sooner 
did I clap eyes upon Mr. Marwood here, a-smokin his pipe, in 
Jinks's face, and a-answerin' him sharp, and a-behavin' what 
you may call altogether cocky, than I says to myself, * They've 
got the wrong un. My fust words and my last about this 
^re gent, was, * They've got the wrong un.* " 

Mr. Peters looked round at the attentive party with a glance 
of triumph, rubbed his hands by way of a full-stop, and went 
on with his manual recitaL 

" For why ? " said the fingers, interrogatively, " for why did 
I think as this 'ere gent was no good for this 'ere murder ; for 
why did I think them chaps at Slopperton had got on the wrong 
scent P Because he was cheeky ? Lor' bless your precious eyes, 
miss" (by way of gallantry he addresses himself here to Isabel), 
** not a bit of it 1 When a cove goes and <i\\\» ^\3ka*0s^<et <yyi^% 



194 The Trail of tie Serpent 

throat off-hand, it ain't likely he ain't prepared t^ check a police- 
ollicer. But when I reckoned up this young gent's face, what 
was it I see P Why, as plain as I see his nose and his mousta- 
chios — and he ain't bad off for neither of them," said the fingers, 
parenthetically — "I see that he hadn't done it. Now, a cov« 
what's screweii up to face a judge and juiy, maybe can face 'em, 
and never change a line of his mug ; but tiaere isn't a cove as 
lives as can stand that first tap of a detective's hand upon his 
shoulder as tells him, plain as words, 'The game is up.* The 
best of *em, and the pluckiest of 'em, drops under that. If they 
keeps the coloxir in their face — ^which some of 'em has got the 
power to do, and none as never tried it on can guess the pain — 
if they can do that 'ere, the perspiration breaks out wet and cold 
upon their for'cds, and that dIows 'em. But tlus young gent — 
he was took aback, he was surprised, and he was nled, and used 
bad language; but his colour never changed, and he wasn't once 
knocked over till Jinks, unbusiness-like, told him of his uncle's 
murder, when he turned as white as that 'ere 'ed of Bon-er- 
part." Mr. Peters, for want of a better comparison, glanced in 
the direction of a bust of the victor of Marengo, which, what 
with tobacco-smoke and a ferocious pair of burnt cork mousta- 
chios, was by no means the whitest object in creation. 

" Now, what a detective officer's good at, if he's worth his salt, 
is this 'ere : when he sees two here and another two there, he 
can put 'em together, though they might be a mile apart to any- 
body not up to the trade, and make 'em into four. So, thinks 
I, the gent isn't took aback at bein' arrested ; but he is took 
aback ^en he hears as how his uncle's murdered. Now, if he'd 
committed the murder, he'd know of it ; and he might sham 
surprise, but he wouldn't be surprised ; and this young gent was 
knocked all of a heap as genuine as — " Mr. Peters's ideas still 
revert to the bust of Napoleon — " as ever that 'ere forring cove 
was, when he sees his old guard scrunched up small at the battle 
of Waterloo.'* 

" Heaven knows, Peters,'* said Eichard, taking his pipe out 
of his mouth, and looking up from his stooping position over the 
fire, " Heaven knows you were right ; I did feel my heart turn 
cold when I heard of that good man's death." 

" Well, that they'd got the wrong un I saw was as clear aa 
dayhght— but where was the right un? That was the ques- 
tion. Whoever committed the murder did it for the money m 
that 'ere cabinet : and sold agen they was, whoever they was, 
and didn't get the money. Who was in the house P This youns 
gent's mother and the servant. I was nobody in the Grardenford 
force, and I was less than nobody at Slopperton ; so get into 
that house at the Black Mill I couldn't. This young gent waf 
walked off to jail, and I was sent about my business — ^my orders 



Mr, Feteri loses his Clue, 195 

bein* to be back in Gardenford that evenip', leavni' Sloppcrton 
by the three-thirty train. "Well, I was a little cut np about this 
young gent ; for I seed that the case was dead agen him ; the 
money m his pocket — the blood on his sleeve — a cock-and-a-bull 
story of a letter of introduction, and a very evident attempt at 
a bolt — only enough to hang him, that's all ; and, for aU that, 
I had a inward conwiction that he was as hinnercent of the 
murder as that 'ere plaster-of-Paris stattur." Mr. Peters ^oes 
regularly to the bust for comparisons, by way of saving time 
and trouble in casting about for fresh ones. 

" But my orders," continued the fingers, " was positive, so I 
goes down to the station to start by the three-thirty ; and as I 
walks into the station-yard, I hears the whistle, and sees the 
train go. I was too late ; and as the next train didn't start for 
near upon three hours, I thought I'd take a stroll and 'av a look 
at the beauties of Slopperton. Well, I strolls on, promiscuous 
like, till I comes to the side of a jolly dirty-looking river ; and 
as by this time I feels a little dry, I walks on, lookm' about for 
a pubHc ; but ne'er a one do I see, till I almost tumbles into a 
dingy little place, as looked as if it did about half-a-pint a-day 
reg'lar, when business was brisk. But in I walks, past the bar ; 
and straight afore me I sees a door as leads into the parlour. 
The passage was jolly dark; and this 'ere door was ajar; and 
inside I hears voices; Well, you see, business is business, and 

Eleasure is pleasure ; but when a cove takes a pleasure in his 
usiness, he gets a way of lettin' his business habits come out 
unbeknownst when he's takin' his pleasure : so I listens. Now, 
the voice I heerd fust was a man's voice ; and, though the place 
tvas a sort of crib such as nobody but navvies or such-like would 
be in the habit of going to, this 'ere was the voice of a gentle- 
man. I can't say as I ever paid much attention to p-ammar 
myself, though I daresay it's very pleasant and amusm' when 
you enter into it ; but, for all that, I'd knocked about in the 
world long enough to know a gent's way of speakin' from a 
navvy's, as well as I know'd one tune on the accordion fi'Qm 
another tune. It was a nice, soft-spoken voice too, and quite 
melodious and pleasant to listen to ; but it was a-sayin* some of 
the crudest and hardest words, as ever was spoke to a woman 
yet by any creature with the cheek to call hisself a man. 
You're not much good, my friend, says I, with your lardy-dardy 
ways and your cold-blooded words, whoever you are. You're a 
thin chap, with Hght hair and white hands, 1 know, though I've 
never seen you ; and there's very little in the way of wickedness 
that you wouldn't be up to on a push.' Now, just as I waa 
a-thinkin' this, he said somethin' that sent the blood up into my 
face as hot as fire — * I expected a sum of money, and I've beak.^ 
disappointed of it,' he said ; and before tVie yjtV S\fc ^q^sa. ^As^ixsi 



\ 



i 



196 The Trail of the Serpent 

to could open her lips, he caught her up sudden — ' Never yoa 
mind how, he says, * never yon mind how.* 

" He expected a sum of money, and he'd been disappointed ci 
it 1 So had the man who had murdered this young gent's uncle. 

" Not much in this, perhaps. But why was he so frightened 
at the thoughts of her asking him how he expected the money^ 
and how he'd bin disappointed P There it got fishy. At any 
rate, says I to myself, 1 11 have a look at you, my friend ; so in 
I walks, very quiet and quite unbeknownst. He was a-sittin* 
with Ids back to the door, and the young woman he was a-talkin' 
to was fftandin' lookin' out of the winder; so neither of 'em saw 
me. Ho was buildin' up some cards into a 'ouse, and had got 
'em up very high, when I laid my hand upon his shoulder sud- 
den. He turned round and looked at me." Mr. Peters here 
paused, and looked round at the little group, who sat watching 
his fingers with breathless attention. He had evidently come to 
a point in his narrative. 

"Now, what did I see in his face when he looked at meP 
Why, the very same look that I missed in the face of this young 
gent when Jinks took him in the momin'. The very same look 
that I'd seen in a many faces, and never know'd it differ, whether 
it came one way or another, always bein' the same look at bot- 
tom — the look of a man as is guilty of what will hang him and 
thinks that he's found out. But as you can't give looks in as 
evidence, this wasn't no good in a practical^ way ; but I says to 
myself, if ever there was anything certain in this world since it 
was begun, I've come across the right un : so I sits down and 
takes up a newspaper. I signified to him that I was dumb, and 
he took it for granted that I was deaf as well — ^which was one 
of those stupid mistakes your clever chaps sometimes fall into 
— so he went on a-taUdng to the girl. 

" Well, it was a old story enough, what him and the girl was 
talkin' of; but every word he said made him out a more cold- 
blooded villain than the last. 

" Presently he offered her some money — ^four sovereigns. She 
served him as he ought to have been served, and threw them 
every one slap in his face. One cut him over the eye ; and I 
was glad of it. 'You're marked, my man,' thinks I, 'and 
nothin' could be handier agen I want you.' He picked up three 
of the sovereigns, but for all he could do he couldn't find the 
fourth. So he had the cut (which was a jolly deep un) plas- 
tered up, and he went away. She stared at the river uncommon 
hard, and then she went away. Now I didn't much like the look 
she gave the river, so as I had about half an hour to spare before 
khe train started, I followed her. I think she knew it ; for pre- 
0eniiljr she turned short off into a little street, and when I turned 
ioto it afier her she wasn't to be Been right or left. 



Mr, Peters loses his Clue. 197 

**WeIl, 1 had but half an hour, so I thought It was no tuw 
dhasin' this unfortunate young creature through all the twistinga 
and turnings of the back slums of Slopperton; so after a few 
minutes' consideration, I walked straight to the stiation. Hang 
me if I wasn't too late for the train again. I don't know how it 
was, but I couldn't keep my mind off the young woman, nor 
keep myself from wonderin* what she was agoin' to do with her- 
self, and what she was agoin' to do with that 'ere baby. So I 
wais back agen down by the water, and as I'd a good hour and 
a half to spare, I walks a good way, thinking of the young man, 
and the cut on his forehead. It was nigh upon dark by this 
time, and foggy into the bargain. Maybe I'd gone a inile or 
more, when I comes up to a barge what lay at anchor quite soli- 
tary. It was a collier, and there was a chap on board, sittin' in 
the stem, smokin', and lookin* at the water. There was no one 
else in sight but him and me ; and no sooner does he spy me 
comin' along the bank than he sings out, 

" * Hulloa ! Have you met a young woman dc wn that way P * 

" His words struck me all of a heap somehow, comin' so near 
upon what I was a-thinkin' of myself. I shook my head ; and 
he said, 

" * There's been some unfort'nate yoimg girl down here tryin* 
to dround her baby. I see the little chap in the water, and 
fished him out with my boat-hook. I'd seen the girl hangin* 
about here, just as it was a-gettin' dark, and then I heard the 
splash when she threw the chud in ; but the fog was too thick 
for me to see anything ashore by that time.' 

" The barge was just alongside the bank, and I stepped on 
board. Not bein' so fortunate as to have a voice, you know, it 
comes awkward with strangers, and I was rather put to it to get 
on with the young man. And didn't he sing out loud when he 
came to understand I was dumb ; he couldn't have spoke in a 
higher "kcj if I'd been a forriner. 

" He told me he should take the baby round to the Union ; all 
he hop^d he said, was, that the mother wasn't a-goin' to do any- 
thing bad with herself. 

" I hoped not too ; but I remembered that look of hers when 
she stood at the window staring out at the river, and I didn't 
feel very easy in my mind about her. 

" I took the poor little wet thing up in my arms. The young 
man had wrapped it in an old jacket, and it was a-cryin' piteouiy 
and lookin', on, so scared and miserable. 

" Well, it may seem a queer whim, but I'm rather soft-hearted 
on the subject of babies, and often had a thought that I should 
like to tiT the power of cultivation in the way of business, anid 
bring a child up from the very cradle to 'ttife ^pc^o^ \<b\fc^5Qj?'bNss^% 
to see whether I couldn't make tlaat 'ere c^^^^ ^ oTQassL^"^**^^*^ 



198 The Trail of the Serpeni. 

force. I wasn't a marryin* man, and by no meuis likely eyer tc 
'ay a family of my own ; bo when I took np that 'ere baby in my 
arms, somenowor other the thought came into my 'ed of adoptin' 
fcim. and bringin' of him up. §o I roUed him up in my great- 
coat, and took him with me to Grardenford." 

" And a wonderful boy he is," said Eichard ; " we'll educate 
him, Peters, and make a gentleman of him." 

"Wait a bit," said i£e fingers yery quickly; "tiiank you 
kindly, sir ; but if the police force oi tnis 'ere country was 
robbed of that *ere boy, it would be robbed of a gem as it 
pouldn't afford to lose. 

" Go on, Peters ; tell them the rest of your story." 

" "Well, though I felt in my own mind that by one of those 
strange chances which does happen in life, may oe as often as 
they happen in story-books, I had fallen across the man who had 
committed the murder, yet for all that I hadn't evidence enough 
to get a hearin'. I got transferred from Gardenford to Slopper- 
ton, and every leisure minute I had I tried to come across the 
man I'd marked ; but nowhere could I see him, or hear of any 
one answering his description. I went to the churches ; for I 
thought him capable of anything, even to shammin* pious. I 
went to the theayter, and I see a you: sr woman accused of 
poisonin* a fam'ly, and proved innocent by a x)lice cove as didn't 
know his business any more than a fly. I went anywhere and 
rvery where, but I never see that man ; and it was gettin' tmcom- 
mon near the trial of this young gent, and nothin' done. How 
was he to be sabred ? I thought of it by night and thought of 
it by day ; but work it out I couldn't nohow. One day I hears 
of an old friend of the pris'ner*s being sup-boned-aed as witness 
for the crown. This friend I determined to see ; for two 'eds " — 
Mr. Peters looked round, as though he defied contradiction — 
** shall be better than one." 

"And this friend," said Gus, "was your hnmble servant; 
who was only too glad to find that poor Dick had one sincere 
friend in the world who believed in hia innocence, besides my- 
ielf." 

" Well, Mr. Darley and me," resumed Mr. Peters, " put om 
*eds together, and we came to this conclusion, that if this young 
gent was Diad when he committed the murder, they couldn't 
hang him, but would shut him in a asylum for the rest of hia 
nat'ral life — which mayn't be pleasant in the habstract, but 
which is better than hangin', any day." 

" So you determined on proving me mad," said Eichard. 

" We hadn't such very bad crounds to go upon, perhaps, old 
w," replied Mr. Darley ; " that brain fever, which we thought 
a misfortune when it laid you up for three dreary weeks, 
w in ^ood stead; weliadBometto\gV>go\3L^\i,iQt^^\2afc^ 




Mr, ^Peters loses his Cltce. 199 

we could get you off by no other means. But to get you off thia 
way we wanted your assistance, and we didn't hit upon the plan 
tiU it was too late to get at you and tell you our scheme ; we 
didn't hit upon it till twelve o'clock on the night before your 
trial. We tried to see .rour counsel ; but he had that morning 
left the town, and wasn't to return till the trial came on. Peters 
hung about the court aU the morning, but couldn't see him ; and 
nothing was done when the judge and jury took their seats. 
You know the rest ; how Peters caught your eye " 

" Yes," said Dick, " and how seven letters upon his fingers told 
me the whole scheme, and gave me my cue ; tnose letters formed 
these two words, * Sham mad.' " 

"And very well you did it at the short notice, Dick," said 
Gus ; " up6n my word, for the moment I was almost staggered, 
and thought, suppose in getting up this dodge we are orly hit- 
ting upon the truth, and the poor feUow reaSy has been driven 
out of his wits by this frightful accusation P " 

"A scrap of paper," said Mr. Peters, on his active fingers, 
" gave the hint to your counsel — a sharp chap enough, though a 
young un." 

"I can afford to reward him now for his exertions," said 
Richard, " and I must find him for that purpose. But Peters, 
for heaven's sake tell us about this young man whom you sus- 
pect to be the murderer. If I go to the end of the world in 
search of him, I'll find him, and drag him and his villany to 
light, that my name may be cleared from the foul stain it 
wears." 

Mr. Peters looked very grave. " You must go a littie further 
'fcihan the end of this world to find him, I'm afraid, sir," said the 
fingers. " What do you say to looking for him in the next P for 
that's the station he'd started for when I last saw him ; and 
I believe that on that line, frith the exception of now and then 
a cock-and-a-bull-lane ghost, they dont give no return tickets." 

" Dead ? " said Bichard. " Dead, and escaped firom justice P " 

" That's about the size of it, sir," replied Mr. Peters. " Whether 
he thought as how something was up, and he was blown, or 
whether he was riled past bearin* at findin' no money in that 
'ere cabinet, I can't take up>>n myself to say ; but I found him 
six months after the murder out upon a neath, dead, with a 
laudanum-bottie a-lying by his side." 

" And did yon ever find out who he was P " asked Gus. 

" He was a usher, sir, at a 'cademv for young gents, and a 
very pious young man he was too, I ve heard ; but for all that 
he murdered this young gent's uncle, or my name isn't Peters." 

" Beyond the reach of justice," said Richard ; " then the truth 
can never be brought to hght, and to the eDA Ci^ to^ ^ajj^^TssasN. 
bear the sti^a of a erime of which. 1 aiQ.YcaiQft^'o^*^^ 



THE DUMB DETECTI7K 



CHAPTEE L 

THE COUNT D£ MAROLLES AT HOMB. 

The denizens of Friar Street and such localities, being in tb-; 
habit of waking in the morning to the odour of melt^ tallow 
and boiling soap, and of going to sleep at night with the smell 
of bumirc bones under their noses, can of course have nothing 
of an external nature in common with the inhabitants of Park 
Lane and its vicinity ; for the gratification of whoao olfactory 
nerves exotics live shoH and unnatural lives, on staircases, in 
bouioirs, and in conservatories of rich plate-glass and fairy 
architecture, where perfumed waters play in gilded fountains 
through the long summer days. 

It might be imagined, then, that the common griefs and 
vulgar sorrows — such as hopeless love and torturii:^ jealousy, 
sickness, or death, or madness, or despair — would be also 
banished from the regions of Park Lane, and entirely confined 
to the purHeus of Friar Street. Anv person with a proper 
sense of the fitness of things would of course conclude this to 
be the case, and would as soon picture my lady the Duchess of 
Mayfair dining on red herrings and potatoes at the absurd hour 
of one o'clock p.m., or blackleading her own grate with her own 
alabaster fingers, as weeping over tiie death of her child, or 
breaking her heart for her faithless husband, just like Mia. Stig- 
gins, potato and coal merchant on a small scale, or Mrs. Higgins, 
whose sole revenues come from " Mangling done here." 

And it does seem hard, oh my brethren, that there should be 
any limit to the magic power of gold ! It may exclude bad airs, 
foul scents, ugly sights, and jarring sounds ; it may surround its 
possessors with beauty, grace, art, luxury, and so-called plea- 
sure ; but it cannot shut out death or care ; for to these stem 
visitors Mayfair and St. Giles's must alike open their reluctant 
doors whenever the dreaded guests may be pleased to call. 

Yon do not send cards for your morning concerts, or fStea 
ehampdtres, or thes dansantcs, to ^oiionv oc 8adaes«}, oh noblfl 



The Count de MaroUes at Home, 201 

duchesses and countesses; but have you never seen their faceg 
ill the crowd when jrou least looked to meet them P 

Through the foliage and rich blossoms in the conservatory, 
and through the white damask curtains of the long French 
window, the autunm sunshine comes with subdued light into a 
boudoir on the second floor of a large house in Park Lane. The 
velvet-pile carpets in this room and the bedchamber and dress- 
ing room adjoming, are made in imitation of a mossy ground on 
which autumn leaves have fallen ; so exquisite, indeed, is the 
design, that it is difficult to think that the light breeze which 
enters at the open window cannot sweep away the fragile leaf, 
which seems to flutter in the sun. The walls are of the palest 
cream-colour, embellished with enamelled portraits of Louis th(j 
Sixteenth, Marie Antoinette, Madame Elizabeth, and the unfor- 
tunate boy prisoner of the Temple, let into the oval panels oi. 
the four sides of the room. Everything in this apartment, 
though perfect in form and colour, is subdued and simple ; there 
are none of the buhl and marqueterie cabinets, the artificial 
flowers, ormolu clocks, French prints, and musical boxes whicti 
might adorn the boudoir of an opera-dancer or the wife of a 
parvenu. The easy-chairs and luxurious sofas are made of a 
polished white wood, and are covered with white damask. On 
the marble mantelpiece there are two or three vases of the purest 
and most classic^ forms; and these, with Canovo's bust of 
Napoleon, are the only ornaments in the room. Near the firo- 

Elace, in which bums a small fire, there is a table loaded with 
ooks, French, English, and German, the newest publications of 
the day ; but they are tossed in a great heap, as if they had one 
by one been looked at and cast aside unread. By this table there 
is a lady seated, whose beautiful face is rendered still more 
striking by the simplicity of her black dress. 

This lady is Valerie de Lancy, now Countess de Marolles ; for 
Monsieur Marolles has expended some part of his wife's fortune 
upon certain estates in the south of France which give him the 
title of Count de Marolles. 

A lucky man, this Raymond Marolles. A beautiful wife, ft 
title, and an immense foi-tune are no such poor prizes in the 
lottery of life. But this Raymond is a man who likes to extend 
his possessions; and in South America he has established him- 
self as a banker on a large scale, and he has lately come over to 
England with his wife and son, for the purpose of estabhshing 
a branch of this bank in London. Of course, a man with his 
aristocratic connections and enormous fortune is respected and 
trusted throughout the continent of South America. 

Eight years have taken nothing from the beauty of Yalerie 
de Marolles. The dark eyes have the same fire, t\^ft y^^s^Wns*^ 
die same haughty grace ; but ailoii« aii^ m xe^^^ ^^ i-sssyiV^s^ ^ ^ 



[ 



203 The Trail of the Serpent. 

shadow of deep and settled sadness that is painful to look apon, 
for it is the gloomy sadness of despair. The world in wLIoh 
this woman lives, wnich knows her only as the brilliant, witty, 
vivacious, and sparkling Parisian, little dreams that she talks 
because she dare not think ; that she is restless and vivacious 
because she dare not be still ; that she hurries from place to 
place in pursuit of pleasure and excitement because only in ex- 
citement, and in a life which is as false and hollow as the mirth 
she assumes, can she fly from the phantom which pursues her. 
O shadow that will not be driven away ! pale and pensive 
ghost, that rises before ns in every hour and in every scene, to 
mock the noisy and tnmultuons revelry which, by tne rule of 
opposites, we call Pleasure ! — ^which oi ns is free from your 
haunting presence, phantom, whose name is The Past P 

Valerie is not alone; a little boy, between seven and eight 
years of age, is standing at her knee, reading aloud to her from 
a book of fables. 

" A frog beheld an ox " he began. But as he read the 

first words the door of the boudoir opened, and a gentleman 
entered, whose pale fair face, blue eyes, light eyelashes, and 
dark hair and eyebrows proclaimed him to be the husband of 
Valerie. 

" Ah," he said, glancing with a sneer at the boy, who Hfbed 
his dark eyes for a moment, and then dropped them on his book 
with an indifference that bespoke Uttle love for the new-comer, 
" you are teaching your child, madame. Teaching him to read ? 
Is not that an innovation P The boy has a fine voice, and the 
ear of a maestro. Let him learn the solfeggi, and very likely 
one of these days he will be as great a man as " 

Valerie looks at him with the old contempt, the old icy cold- 
ness in her face. " Do yon want anything of me this morning, 
monsieur P " she asked. 

" No, madame. Having the entire command of your fortune, 
what can I askP A smile P Nay, madame; yon keep your 
Bnules for your son ; and again, they are so cheap in London, 
the smiles of beauty." 

"Then, monsieur, since yon require nothing at my hands, 
may I ask why you insult me with your presence P " 

" You teach your son to respect— his father, madame," said 
Raymond with a sneer, throwmg himself into an easy-chair 
opposite Valerie. " You set the future Count de MaroUes a 
good example. He will be a model of filial piety, as you aro 

" Do not fear. Monsieur de Marolles, but that one day I shall 
teach my son to respect his father; fear rather lest I teach him 

to avenge " 

"NsLj, madame, it is for yon to fear ^kai.*' 



The Count de Marolles at Some. 203 

Dxuin^ the whole of this brief dialogue, the little boy has held 
his mother's hand, looking with his serions eyes anxiously in 
her face. Toung as he is, there is a courage in his glance and 
a look of firmness in his determined under-lip that promises 
well for the future. Valerie turns from the cynical face of her 
husband, and lays a caressing hand on the boy's dark ringlets. 
Do those ringlets remind her of any other dark hair ? Do any 
other eyes look out in the light of those she gazes at now P 

" You were good enough to ask me just now, madame, the 
purport of my visit ; your discrimination naturally suggesting 
to you that fiiere is nothing so remarkably attractive in the 
society to be found in these apartments, infantine lectures in 
words of one syllable included ** — ^he glances towards the boy as 
he speaks, and the cruel blue eyes are never so cruel as when 
they look that way — " as to induce me to enter them without 
some purpose or other." 

" Perhaps monsieur will be so good as to be brief in stating 
that purpose ? He may imagine, that being entir% devoted to 
my son, I do not choose to have his studies, or even his amuse- 
ments, interrupted." 

" You bring up young Count Almaviva like a prince, madame. 
It is something to have good blood in one's vems, even on one 
side " 

If she could have killed him with a look of those bright dark 
eyes, he would have fallen dead as he spoke the words that 
struck one by one at her broken heart. He knew his power ; he 
knew wherein it lay, and how to use it — and he loved to wound 
her; because, though he had won wealth and rank from her, he 
had never conquered her, and he felt that even in her despair 
she defied him. 

" You are irrelevant, monsieur. Pray be so kind as to say 
what brought you here, where I would not insult your good 
sense by saying you are a welcome visitor." 

" Briefly then, madame. Our domestic arrangements do not 
please me. We are never known to quarrel, it is true ; but we 
are rarely seen to address each other, and we are not often seen 
in public together. Very well this in South America, where we 
were king and queen of our circle — ^here it will not do. To say 
the least, it is mysterious. The fashionable world is scandalous. 
People draw inferences— monsieur does not love madame, and 
he married her for her money; or, on the other hand, madame 
does not love monsieur, but married hinn because she had some 
powerful motive for so doing. This wiU not do, countess. A 
banker must be respectable, or people may be afraid to trust 
him. I must be, wjiat I am now called, ' the eminent banker \* 
and I must be universally trusted." 

^ • That jou may the better betray, ULonsoeva \ ^2!wbJ^Ss^H5aRkTs^^*"02*% 



204 The Trail of the Serpeni. 

for winning people's confidence, in your code of moral economy, 
is it not?" 

** Madame is becoming a logician; her argument by induction 
does her credit.'* 

" But, your business, monsiexir P " 

" Was to signify my wish, madame, that we should be seen 
oftener together in public. The Italian Opera» now, madame, 
though you have so great a distaste for it — a distaste which, by- 
the-bye, you did not possess during the early period of your 
life— is a very popular resort. All the world will be there to- 
night, to witness the debut of a singer of continental celebrity. 
Perhaps you will do me the honour to accompany me there P " 

•* I do not take any interest, monsieur 

** In the fortunes of tenor singers. Ah, how completely we 
outlive the fooHsh fancies of our youth ! But you will occupy 
the box on the grand tier of her Majesty's Theatre, which I have 
taken for the season. It is to your son's — ^to Cherubino'p 
interest, for you to comply with my request." He, glances 
towards the boy once more, with a sneer on his thin lips, and 
then turns and Ik>ws to Valerie, as he says — 

**Au revovr, madame. I shall order the carriage for eight 
o'clock." 

A horse, which at a sale at Tattersall's had attracted the 
attention of all the votaries of the Comer, for the perfection o§ 
his points and the enormous price which he realized, caracoles 
before the door, under the skilnd horsemanship of a well-trained 
and exquisitely-appointed groom. Another horse, equally high- 
bred, waits for ms rider, the Count de Marolles. The groom 
dismounts, and holds the bridle, as the gentleman emerges from 
the door and springs into the saddle. A consummate horseman 
the Count de Marolles ; a handsome man too, in spite of the 
restless and shifting blue eyes and the thin nervous lips. His 
dress is perfect, just keeping pace with the fashion sufficiently 
to denote high ton in the wearer, without outstripping it, so as 
to stamp him a parvenu. It has that elegant and studious 
grace which, to a casual observer, looks like carelessness, bul 
which is in reality the perfection of the highest art of all — ^the 
art of concealing art. 

It is only twewe o'clock, and there are not many people of any 
standing in Piccadilly this September morning ; but of the few 
gentlemen on horseback who pass Monsieur de Marolles, the 
most aristocratic-looking bow to him. He is well known in the 
great world ai| the eminent banker, the owner of a superb house 
m Park Lane. He possesses a man cook of Parisian renown, 
who wears the cross of the Legion of Honour, given him by the 
Erst Napoleon on the occasion of a dinner at Talleyrand's. He 
has eatELtea in South Ameiica aad in France ; a fortune, said to 



Mr. Peters sees a Ghost. 20& 

be boimdles&ij and a lovely wife. For the rest, if his own 
patent of nobility is of rather fresh date, and if, as impertinent 
people say, he never had a grandfather, or indeed anything in 
the way of a father to spe^ of, it must be remembered that 
great men, since the days of mythic history, have been cele- 
brated for being bom in rather an accidental manner. 

But why a banker ? Why, possessed of an enormous fortune, 
try to extend that fortune by speculation P That question lies 
between Eaymond de MaroUes and his conscience. Perhaps 
there are no bounds to the ambition of this man, who entered 
Paris eight years ago an obscure adventurer, and who» according 
to some accounts, is now a millionaire. 



CHAPTEE n. 

MK. FETEBS SEES A GHOST. 

Mk. Peters, pensioned off by Richard's mother with an income 
of a hundred pounds a year, has taken and furnished for himself 
a small house in a very small square not far from Mr. Barley's 
establishment, and rejoicing in the high-sounding address of 
Wellington Square, Waterloo Road. Having done this, he feels 
that he has nothing more to do in life than to retire upon his 
laurels, and enjoy the otium cum dignitate which he has earned 
80 well. 

Of course Mr. Peters, as a single man, cannot by any possi- 
bility do for himself; and as — ^having started an establishment 
of his own — ^he is no longer in a position to be taken in and 
done for, the best thing he can do is to send for Kuppins ; 
accordiugly he does send for Kuppins. 

Kuppins is to be cook, housekeeper, laundress, and parlour- 
maid all in one ; and she is to have ten pounds per annum, and 
her tea, sugar, and beer — wages only known in Slopperton in 
very high and aristocratic families wnere footmen are kept and 
no followers or Sundays out allowed. 

So Kuppins comes to London, bringing the " fondling" with 
her ; and arriving at the Euston Square station at eight o'clock 
in the evening, is launched into the dazzlingly bewildering gaiety 
of the New Road. 

Well, it is not paved with gold certainly, this marvellous city; 
and it is, maybe, on the whole, just a little muddy. But oh, the 
shops — ^what emporiums of splendour ! What delightful excite- 
ment in being nearly run over every minute I — ^to say nothing of 
that delicious chance of being knocked down hj the arowd wmch 
is collected round a drunken woman expostulating with a police- 
man. Of course there must be a general election, cr a great 
fire, or a man hanging, or a mad ox at Jarge, or a mxjjcdjKt ^s^ai^ 
committed in the next street, or somctlomg '^oxv<Vctl^A^<3vs^?^«ci«v^ 



206 The Trail of the Serpent 

or there never could be sucli crowds of excited pedestrianB, and 
Bi^cli tearing and rusliing, and smashing of cabs, carts, omni* 
buses, and parcel-delivery vans, aU of them driven by charioteers' 
m the last stage of insanity, and drawn by horses as wild as 
that time-honoured steed employed in the artistic and poetical 
punishment of our old friend Mazeppa. Tottenham Court 
lioad ! What a magnificent promenade I Occupied, of course, 
by the houses of the nobility ! And is that magnincent establish- 
nent with the iron shutters Buckingham Palace or the Tower 
of London P Kuppins inclines to thinlnng it must be the Tower 
of London, because the iron shutters look so warlike, and are 
evidently intended as a means of defence in case of an attack 
from the French. 

Ku|)pins is told by her escort, Mr. Peters, that this is the 
emporium of Messrs. Shoolbred, haberdashers and linen- 
drapers. She thinks she must be dreaming, and wants to be 
pinched and awakened before she proceeds any further. It is 
rather a trying journey for Mr. Peters ; for Kuppins wants to 
stop the cab every twentv yards or so, to get out and look at 
something in this wonderful Tottenham Court Road. 

But the worst of Kuppins, perhaps, is, that she has almost 
an insane desire to see that Tottenham Court whence Totten- 
ham Court Road derives its name ; and when told that there is no 
such place, and never was — ^leastways, never as Mr. Peters heard 
of — she begins to think London, in spite of all its glories, rather 
a take-in. Then, again, Kuppins is very much disappointed at 
not passinff either "Westminster Abbey or the Bank of England, 
which she had made up her mind were both situated at Charing 
Cross ; and it was a little trying for Mr. Peters to be asked 
whether every moderate-sized church they passed was St. Paul's 
Cathedral, or every little bit of dead wall Newgate. To go over 
a bridge, and for it not to be London Bridge, but Waterloo 
Bridge, was in itself a mystery; but to be told that the Shot 
Tower on the Surrey side was not the Monument was too be- 
wildering for endurance. As to the Victoria Theatre, which 
was illuminated to such a degree that the box-entrance seemed 
as a pathway to fairyland, Kuppins was so thoroughly assured 
in her own mind of its being Drury Lane and nothing else, unless, 
perhaps, the Houses of Parliament or Covent Garden — ^that no 
protestations on Mr. Peters's fingers could root out the fallacy. 

But the journey came to an end at last ; and Kuppins, safe 
with bag and baggage at No. 17, WeUingtbn Sijuare, partook 
of real London saveloys and real London porter with Mr. Peters 
and the " fondling," in an elegant front parlour, furnished with 
a brilliantly polished but rawer rickety Pembroke table, that 
was covered with a RoyaJ Stuart plaid woollen cloth ; half-a- 
doxen cane-seatod chaire, so new and highly polished as to be 



Mr. Peters sees a Ohogi, 207 

ipt to adhere to the garments of the person who vo little nnder* 
stood their nature or properties as to attempt to nit upon them ; 
a Kidderminster carpet, the pattern of wnich vkos of the size 
adapted to the requirements of a town hall, but which looked a 
little disproportionate to Mr. Peters's apartment, two patterns 
and a quarter stretching the entire length of the room ; and a 
mantelpiece ornamented with a lookinc^-glass divided inte three 
compartments bj gilded Corinthian pilmrs, and further adorned 
^vith two black velvet kittens, one at each comer, and a parti- 
coloured velvet boy on a brown velvet donkey in the centre. 

The next morning Mr. Peters announced his intention of 
taking the " fondling" inte the city of London, for the purpose 
of showing him the outside of St. Paul's, the Monupient, 
Punch and Judy, and other intellectual exhibitions adapted to 
his tender years. Kuppins was for starting then and there on a 
visit te the pig-faced lady, than which magnificent creature she 
could not picture any greater wonder in the whole metropolis ; 
but Kuppins had to stay at home in her post of housekeeper, 
and te inspect and arrange the domestic machinery of No. 17, 
Wellington Square. So the " fondling," being magnificently 
arrayed in a clean collar and a pair of boots that were too small 
for nim, took hold of his protector's hand, and they sallied 
forth. 

If anything, Punch and Judy bore off the palm in this young 
gentleman's judgment of the miracles of the big village. 

It was not so subHme a sight, perhaps, as the outside of St. 
Paul's ; but, on the other hand, it was a great deal cleaner ; and 
the " fondling" would have liked te have seen Sir Christopher 
Wren's masterpiece picked out with a little fresh paint before 
he was called upon to admire it. The Monument, no doubt, 
was very charming in the abstract; but unless he could have 
been perpetually on the toj) of it, and perpetually within a hair's 
breadth of precipitating himself on to tne pavement below, it 
wasn't very much in his way. But Punch, with his delightfully 
original style of elocution, his overpoweringly comic domestic 
passages with Judy, and the dolefully funny dog with a frill 
round his neck and an evident dislike for his profession — this, 
indeed, was an exhibition to be seen continually, and to be more 
admired the more continually seen, as no doubt the " fondling" 
would have said had he been familiar with Dr. Johnson, which, 
it is to be hoped, for his own peace of mind, he wasn't. 

It is rather a trying day for Mr. Peters, and he is not sorry 
when, at about four o'clock in the afternoon, he has taken the 
•* fondling" aU round the Bank of England — (that young gentle- 
man insisting on peering in at the great massive windows, in 
the fond hope of seeing the money) — and has shown him the 
broad hack of the Old Lady of Threadneedl^ ^^Tfe«?\>, 'oxv^ K^*^ 



210 The Trail of iU Serpent 

young woman throwed at him P Why nowheres ! Hot a twic« 
of it to be seen, which I looked for it particnlar; and yet that 
ent wasn't one to leave a scar that would wear out in six months, 
nor yet in six years either. IVe had my face scratched myself, 
though Fm a single man, and I know what that is to last, and 
the awkwardness one has to go through in s^png one's been 
playing with spiteful kittens, and such-hke. fiut what's that 
to a cut half a inch deep from the sharp edge of a sovering P 
If I could but get to see nis forehead. Tne cut was just over 
his eyebrow, and I could see the mark of it with his hat on." 

While Mr. Peters abandons himself to such reflections as these, 
the cab drives on and follows the Count de MaroUes down Lud- 
gate Hill, through Fleet Street and the Strand, Charing Cross 
and Pall Mall, St. James's Street and Piccadilly, till it comes up 
with him at the comer of Park Lone. 

** This," says Mr. Peters, " is where the swells live. Very 
likely he hangs out here ; he's a-ridin' as if he was goin' to stop 
presently, so we'll get out." Whereupon the " fondling" inter- 
pTTits to the cabman Mr. Peters's wisn to that effect, and they 
alight from the vehicle. 

The detective's surmise is correct. The Count stops, gets ofl^ 
his horse, and throws the reins to the ^oom. It happens at 
this very moment that an open carriage, in which two ladies are 
seated, passes on its way to the Grosvenor Gate. One of the ladies 
bows to the South- American banker, and as he lifts his hat in 
returning her salute, Mr. Peters, who is looking at nothing par- 
ticular, sees very distinctly the scar which is the sole memorial 
of that public-house encounter on the banks of the Sloshy. 

As Raymond throws the reins to the groom he says, "I shall 
not ride again to-day, C urtis. Tell Morgan to have the Coun- 
tess's carriage at the door at eight for the opera.'* 

Mr. Peters, who doesn't seem to be a person blest with the 
faculty of hearing, but who is, to all appearance, busily engaged 
in drawing the attention of the " fondlmg" to the architectiural 
beauties of Grosvenor Gate, may nevertheless take due note oi 
this remark. 

The elegant banker ascends the steps of his house, at the hall- 
door of which stand gorgeous and obsequious flunkeys, whose 
liveries and legs alike fill with admiration the juvenile mind of 
the •*fondHng." 

Mr. Peters is very grave for some time, as they walk away ; 
but at last, when they have got halfway down Piccadilly, he lias 
recourse once more to his fingers, and addresses his young 
friend thus: 

" What did you think of him. Slosh P" 

'* Which," Bays the " fondling;" " the cove in the red yeWel 
breeches aa opened the door, or me swc^ ^oskV^'' 



Mr, Peters sees a Ghosts 211 

"The swell/; 

"Well, I think he's nncomnion handsome, and very easy in 
his manners, all things taken into consideration," said that 
elderly jnvenile with deliberation. 

" Oh, yon do, do yon. Slosh P** 

Slosh repeats that he does. 

Mr. Peters's gravity increases every moment. ** Oh, you do, 
do yon. Slosh P " he asks again, and again the boy answers. 
At last, to the considerable inconvenience of the passers-by, 
the detective makes a dead stop, and says, "Tm glad yon think 
him han'some. Slosh; and I'm glad yon thinks nim easy, 
which, all things considered, he is, nn common. In fact, I'm 
glad he meets yonr views as far as personal appearance goes, 
becans^, between yon and me, Slosh, tnat man's yonr father." 

It is the boy's tnm to hold on to the lamp-post now. To 
have a ghost for a father, and, as Slosh afterwards remarked, 
" a ghost as wears polishy boots, and hves in Park Lane, too," 
was enongh to take the breath out of any boy, however preter- 
naturally elderly and superhumanly sharp his police-office 
experiences may have made him. On the whole, the " fond- 
ling " bears the shock very well, shakes off the effect of the 
information, and is ready for more in a minute. 

*'I wouldn't have you mention it jnst now, you know. 
Slosh," continues Mr. Peters, "because we don't know what 
he may turn out, and whether he may quite answer our purpose 
in the parental line. There's a little outstandiuff matter between 
me and him that I shall have to look him up for. I may want 
your help ; and if I do, you'll give it faithful, won't you, Slosh P" 

" Of course I will," said that young gentleman. " Is there 
any reward out for him, father P" He always called Mr. 
Peters father, and wasn't prepared to change his habit in 
deference to any ghostly phenomenon in the way of a parent 
suddenly turning up in Lombard Street. " Is there any reward 
out for him P " he asks, eagerly ; " bankers is good for some- 
thing in the levanting hue, I know, nowadays." 

The detective looked at the boy's sharp thin features with a 
scrutinising glance common to men of his profession. 

" Then you'll serve me faithful, if I want you, Slosh P 1 
thought perhaps yon might let family interests interfere with 
business, you know." 

" Not a bit of it," said the yonthfol enthusiast. " I'd hang 
my grandmother for a sovering, and the pride of catching her, 
if she was a downy one." 

"Chips of old blocks is of the same wocd, and it's only 
reasonable there should be a similarity in the grain," mused 
Mr. Peters, as he and the " fondling" TcyielcL0T£i^\XL«x\.<3«sKia^^ 
••I ihought Td make him a genraa,\ra\.l ^^\» \casssR Kistfa^ 



212 The trail of the Serpent 

was such a under-current of liis father. It*ll make him the 
glory of liis profession. Soft-heartedness has been the ruin of 
many a detective as has had the brains to work out a deep-laid 
game, but not the heart to carry it through." 



OHAPTEE III. 

THE CKEBOKBES llAEK THEIB HAS. 

Hek Majesty's Theatre is peculiarly brilliant this evening. 
Diamonds and beauty, in tier above tier, look out from the 
amber-curtained boxes. The stalls are full, and the pit is 
crammed. In fop*s alley there is scarcely standing room; 
indeed, one gentleman remarks to another, that if Pande- 
monium is equally hot and crowded, he will turn Methodisi 
parson in his old age, and give his mind to drinking at tea- 
meetiQgs. 

The gentleman who makes this remark is neither more nor 
less than a distinguished member of the " Cheerfuls," the 
domino-player alluded to some chapters back. 

He is standing talking to Eichard ; and to see him now, with 
an opera-glass in his hand, his hair worn in a manner conform- 
ing with the usages of society, and only in a modified degree 
suggesting that celebrated hero of the Newgate calendar and 
modern romance, Mr. John Sheppard, a dress-coat, patent 
leather boots, and the regulation white waistcoat, you would 
think he had never been tipsy or riotous in his life. 

This gentleman is Mr. Percy Cordonner. All the Oherokees 
are more or less literary, and all the Oherokees have, more or 
less, admission to every place of entertainment, from Hei 
Majesty's Theatre to the meetings of the members of the 
" P.E." But what brings Eichard to the Opera to-night P and 
who is that not very musical-looking little gentleman at his 
elbow P 

" Will they all be here P" asked Dick of Mr. Cordonner. 

" Every one of them ; unless SpHtters is unable to tear him- 
self away from his nightly feast of blood and blue fire at the 
Vic. His piece has been performed fourteen times, and it's my 
belief he*s been at every representation ; and that he tears his 
hair when the actors leave out the gems of the dialogue and 
dro]) their h's. They do drop their h's over the water," he 
continues, lapsing into a reverie ; " when our compositors are 
short of type, they go over and sweep them up." 

" Yott're sure they'll be here, then, Percy P " 

" Every one of tnem, I tell you. I'm whipper-in. They're 

fco meet at the oyster shop in the Haymarket ; you know the 

pJace, where there's a pretty girl and fresh Oolchesters, don't 



The OheroJcee3 mark their Man. 213 

ebarge yon anything extra for the lemon, and you can squeeze 
her hand when she gives you the change. They're sure to come 
in here two at a time, and pnt their mark npon the gentleman 
in question. Is he in the house yet, old fellow ? " 

Eichard turns to the quiet Utile man at his elbow, who is our 
old friend Mr. Peters, and asks him a question : he only shakes 
his head in reply. 

" No, he's . not here yet," says Dick ; " let's have a look at 
the stage, and see what sort of stuff this Signer Mosquetti is 
made of." 

**I shall cut him up, on principle," says Percy; "and the 
better he is, the more I shall cut him up, on another principle." 

There is a great deal of curiosity about this new tenor of 
continental celebrity. The opera is the Lucia, and the appear- 
ance of Edgardo is looked forward to with anxiety. Presently 
the hero of the square-cut coat and jack-boots enters. He is 
a handsome fellow, with a dark southern face, and an easy 
insouciant manner. His voice is melody itself; the rich notes 
roll out in a flood of sweetness, without the faintest indication 
ot effort. Though Richard pretends to look at the stage, though 
perhaps he does try to direct his attention that way, his pale 
face, his wandering glance, and his restless under-lip, show him 
to be greatly agitated. He is waiting for that moment when 
the detective shall say to him, " There is the murderer of your 
uncle. There is the man for whose guilt you have suffered, and 
must suffer, till he is brought to justice." The first act of the 
opera seemed endless to Daredevil Dick; while his philoso- 
phical friend, Mr. Cordonner, looked on as coolly as he would 
have done at an earthquake, or the end of the world, or any 
other trifling event of that nature. 

The curtain has fallen upon the first act, when Mr. Peters 
lays his hand on Eichard's arm and points to a box on the 
grand tier. 

A gentleman and lady, and a little boy, have just taken their 
seats. The gentleman, as becomes him, sits with his back to 
the stage and faces the house. He lifts his opera-glass to take 
a leisurely survey of the audience. Percy puts ms glass' into 
Richard's hand* and with a hearty "Courage, old bojr!" 
watches him as he looks for the first time at his deadliest 
enemy. 

And is that calm, aristocratic, and serene face the face of a 
murderer? The shifting blue eyes and the thin arched lips 
are not discernible from this distance ; but through the glass 
tine general effect of the face is very plainly seen, and there is 
no fear that Eichard will fail to know its owner again, when« 
ever and wherever he may meet him. 

Mr. Cordonner, after a delibexat© Vn«pfec^\oti oH ^^\«raRs^^ 



21i The Trail of the Serpent. 

attractions of the Count de Marolles, remarks, with less respect 
than indifference, 

'* Well, the beggar is by no means bad-looking, but he looks 
a determined scoundrel. He'd make a first-rate light-comedy 
\\Ilain for a Forte-St.-Martin drama. I can imagine him in 
Hessian boots poisoning aU his relations, and laughing at the 
police when they come to arrest him." 

" Shall you know him again, Percy P " asks Bichard. 

« Among an army of soldiers, every one of them dressed in 
the same uniform," replies his friend. ** There's something 
unmistakable about that pale thin face. I'll go and bring the 
other fellows in, that they may all be able to swear to him 
when they see him." 

In groups of two and three the Cherokees strolled into the 
pit, and were conducted by Mr. Cordonner — ^who, to serve a 
mend, could, on a push, be almost active — ^to the spot where 
Eichard and the detective stood. One after another they took 
a long look, through the most powerful glass they could select, 
at the tranquil features of Victor de Marolles. 

Little did that gentleman dream of this amateur band of 
police, formed for the special purpose of the detection of the 
crime he was supposed to have committed. 

One by one the " Cheerfuls " register the Count's handsome 
face upon their memories, and with a hearty shake of the hand 
each man declares his willingness to serve Eichard whenever 
and wherever he may see a chance, however faint or distant, of 
80 doing. 

And aU this time the Count is utterly unmoved. Not quite 
so unmoved though, when, in the second act, he recognizes in 
the Edgardo — ^the new tenor, the hero of the night — his old 
acquaintance of the Parisian ItaHan Opera, the chorus-singer 
and mimic. Monsieur Paul Mouc^e. This skilful workman does 
not care about meeting with a tool which, once used, were better 
thrown aside and for ever done away with. But this Signer 
Paolo Mosquetti is neither more nor less than the slovenly, petit- 
verre-drinkmg, domino-playing chorus-singer, at a salary of 
thirty francs a-week. His genius, which enabled him to sing 
an aria in perfect imitation of the fashionable tenor of the day, 
has abo enabled him, with a httle industry, and a httle less 
wine-drinking and gambling, to become a fashionable tenor 
himself, and Milan, Naplei, Vienna, and Paris testify to his 
triumphs. 

Ana all this time Yaleried^ Marolles looks on a stage such 

as that on which, years ago, she so often saw the form she loved. 

That faint resemblance, tiiat likeness in his walk, voice, and 

manner, which Mouc^e has to Gaston de Laney strikes her very 

forcibly. It ia no great lilaMflMMMA.jrpen the mimic is 




Tie aerokea mmrh ikeir Mam. 213 



buit on lepresentiiig the man lie resembles ; theu, indeed, aa 
we Imow, it is xemaikaUeL Bnt at an j time it is enough to 
strike a hitterpang to this beareaved and remorsefdl heart* wkidi 
in every dzeam and every shadow is only too apt to recall thai 
onforgotten past. 

The Cheiokees meanwhile express their sentiments pretty 
freely abontMonsiear Baymond deMaroUes, and discuss divers 
schemes for the bringinjg of him to justice. Splitters, whose 
experiences as a dramatic writer suggested to him every pos- 
sible kind of mode but a natural one, proposed that llichard 
should wait upob the Count, when convement, at the hour of 
midnight, disguised as his uncle's ghost, and confound the 
villain in the stronghold of his crime — meaning Park Lane. 
This sentence was verbatim from a playbill, as well as the 
whole very available idea; Mr. Splitters's notions of ju8tic4 
being entirely confined to the rembutive or poetical, m the 
person of a gentleman with a very long speech and two pistols. 

"The Smasher's outside," said Percy Cordonner. *' lie 
wants to have a look at our friend as he goes out, that he may 
reckon him up. You'd better let him go into the Count s 
peepers with nis left, Dick, and damage his beauty ; it's tlie 
test chance you'll get." 

" No, no ; I tell you, Percy, that man shall stand where I 
stood. That man shall drink to the dregs the cup I drank, 
when I stood in the criminal dock at Slopperton and saw every 
eye turned towards me with execration and horror, and know 
that my innocence was of no avail to sustain me in the good 
opinion of one creature who had known me from my very 
boyhood." 

"Except the 'Chaflrfiils,'" said Peroy. "Don't forget the 
•Cheerfuls.'" 

" When I do, I shall have forgotten all on this side of the 
grave, you may depend, Percy. I^o ; I have some firm friondu 
on earth, and here is one; and he laid his hand on the 
shoulder of Mr. Peters, who still stood at his elbow. 

The opera was concluded, and the Count de Marolles and his 
lovely wife rose to leave their box. Eichard, Percy, Splitterfi, 
two or three more of the Cherokees, and Mr. Peters left the pit 
at the same time, and contrived to be at thebox-entranco bofors 
Bavmond's party came out. 

At last the Count de Marolles' carriage was called ; and a 
it drew up, Baymond descended the steps with his wife on hii^ 
arm, her uttle hoj clinging to her left hand. 

" She's a splendid creature,*' said Percy ; " but there's a snice 
of devOryin those glorious dark eyes. I wouldn't be her nut* 
band for a trifle, if I happened to offend her." 

As the Count and Oonateas caroiMii traia \)cv& ^nut% ciK. "0^^ 



216 The Trail of the Serpent 

opera-Hoxise to their carriage, adnmken man came reeling past^ 
and before the servants or policemen standing by conld inter- 
fere, stnmbled against Baymond de Marolles, and in so doing 
knocked liis hat off. He picked it np immediately, and, mut- 
tering some nnintelligible apology, returned it to Eaymond, 
looking, as he did so, very steadily m the face of M. de Marolles. 
The occurrence did not occupy a moment, and the Count was 
too finished a gentleman to niake any disturbance. This man 
was the Smasher. 

As the carriage drove off, he joined the group under the 
colonnade, perfectly sober by this ume. 

" IVe haa a jolly good look at him, Mr. Marwood," he said, 
" and I'd swear to him after forty rounds in the ring, which is 
apt sometimes to take a httle of the Cupid out of a gent. He's 
not a bad-looking cove on the whole, and looks game. He's 
rather slight built, but he might make that up in science, and 
dance a pretty tidy quadrill* round the chap he was put up 
agin, bein' active and lissom. I see the cut upon his forehead, 
Mr. Peters, as you told me to take notice of," he said, address- 
ing the detective. " He didn't get that in a fair stand-up fighl, 
leastways not from an Englishman. When you cross the water 
for your antagonist, you don't know what you maj^ get." 

" He got it from an Englishwoman, though," saia Eichard. 

"Did ne, nowP Ah, that's the worst of the softer sect; you 
see, sir, you never know where they'll have you. They're awful 
deficient in science, to be sure ; but. Lord bless you, they make 
it up with the will," and the Left-handed one rubbed his nose. 
He nad been married during his early career, and was in the 
habit of saying that ten rounds inside the ropes was a trifle 
compared with one round in your own back-parlour, when your 
missus had got your knowledge-box in chancery against the 
corner of the mantelpiece, and was marking a dozen different 
editions of the ten commandments on your complexion with hei 
bunch of fives. 

'* Come, gentlemen," said the hospitable Smasher, ** what do 
you say to a Welsh rarebit and a bottle of bitter at my place P 
We're as full as we can hold down stairs, for the Finsbuiy 
Fizzer's trainer has come up from Newmarket ; and his backers 
is hearin' anecdotes of his doings for the last interesting week. 
They talk of dropping down the river on Tuesday for the great 
event between him and the Atlantic Alligator, and the excite- 
ment's tremenjous ; our barmaid's hands is blistered with work* 
ing at the engines. So come round and see the game, gentlemen; 
and if you've any loose cash you'd like to put upon the Fizzer 
I can get you decent odds, considerin' he's the favourite." 
Bichajra shook his head. He would go home to his mother, 
ife smd; be wQ.ntei to talk to Petexa Bjoou\»\Jsift ^^'^ \^<2i^* '^ 



The Capiatmj the Chemist^ and the Lascar. 217 

shook hands heartily with his Mends, and as they strolled off 
to the Smasher's, walked with them as far as Charing Cross, 
and lefb them at the comer that led into qoiet Spring G^ardens. 
Ibi the club-room of the Cherokees that night the members 
renewed the oath they had taken on the night of Richard'ii 
arrival, and formally inaugurated themselves as ** Daredevil 
Dick's secret poHce." 



CHAPTER IV. 

THE CAFTADT, THE CHEHIST, AND THE lASCAB. 

In the drawing-room of a house in a small street leading out 
of Regent Street are assembled, the morning after tliis opera- 
house recontre, three people. It is almost difficult to ima^ne 
three persons more dissimilar than those who compose this httle 
group. On a sofa near the open window, at which the autumn 
breeze comes blowing in over boxes of dusty London flowers, 
reclines a gentleman, whose bronzed and bearded face, and the 
military style even of the loose morning undress which he wears, 
proclaim him to be a soldier. A very handsome face it is, this 
soldier's, although darkened not a httle by a tropical sun, and a 
good deal shrouded by the thick black moustache and beard 
which conceal the expression of the mouth, and detract from the 
individuality of the face. He is smoking a long cherry-stemmed 

Eipe, the bowl of -which rests on the flobr. A short distance 
'om the sofa on which he is lying, an Indian servant is seated 
on the carpet, who watches the bowl of the pipe, ready to re- 
plenish it the moment it fails, and every now and then glances 
upward to the grave face of the officer with a look of unmistak- 
able affection in his soft black eyes. 

The third occupant of the Httle drawing-room is a pale, thin, 
etudious-looking man, who is seated at a cabinet in a comer 
away from the window, amongst papers and books, which are 
heaped in a chaotic pile on the floor about him. Strange books 
and papers these are. Mathematical charts, inscribed with 
figures such as perhaps neither Newton or Leplace ever dreamed 
of. Yolumes in old worm-eaten bindings, and written in strange 
languages lon^ since dead and forgotten upon this earth ; but 
they ail seem lamiliar to this pale student, wnose blue spectacles 
bend over pages of crabbed Arabic as intently as the eyes of a 
boarding-school miss who devours the last volume of the last 
new novel. Now and then he scratches a few figures, or a sign 
in algebra, or a sentence in Arabic, on the paper before him, and 
then goes back to the book again, never looking u^ tfir^^x^SSas^ 
imoker or his Hindoo ^.ttendant. PxeaeuW^ m'a ^0^^«t^^^\^ 



318 The Trail of the Serpent 

reUnqnishet his pipe to the Indian to be replenisned, breakd the 
silence. 

"So the great people of London, as well as of Paris, aro 
beguming to believe in yon, Laurent? " he says. 

The student lifts his head from his work, and turning the blue 
spectacles towards the smoker, says in his old unimpassioned 
manner — 

" How can they do otherwise, when I tell them the truth ? 
These," he points to the pile of books and papers at his side, 
" do not err : they only want to be interpreted rightly. I may 
have been sometimes mistaken — I have never been deceived.*' 

" You draw nice distinctions, Blurosset." 

" ]^ot at all. If I have made mistakes in the course of my 
career, it has been from my own ignorance, my own ^werlessness 
to read these aright ; not from any shortcoming in the things 
themselves. I tefl you, they do not deceive." 

" But will you ever read them aright P Will you ever fathom 
fco the very bottom this dark gulf of forgotten science P " 

"Yes, I am on the right road. I only pray to live long 
enough to reach the end." 

"And then-; — P" 

" Then it will be within the compass of my own will to live 
for ever." 

"Pshaw! The old story — ^the old delusion. How strange 
that the wisest on this earth should have been fooled by it ! " 

" Make sure that it is a delusion, before you say they were 
fooled by it, Captain." 

" Well, my dear Blurosset, Heaven forbid that I should dis- 
pute with one so learned as you upon so obscure a subject. I 
am more at home holding a fort agamst the Indians than nolding 
an argument against iJbertus Magnus. You still, however, 
persist that this faithful Mujeebez here is in some manner or 
other linked with my destiny P " 

"I do." 

" And yet it is very singular I What can connect two men 
whose experiences in eveiy way are so dissimilar P " 

*' I tell you again that ne will be instrumental in confounding 
your enemies." 

" You know who they are — or rather, who he is. I have but 



one." 



" Not two. Captain P" 

"Not two. No, Blurosset. There is but one on whom 1 
would wreak a deep and deadly vengeance." 

" And for the other P " 

"Pity and forciveness. Do not speak of that. There are 
some things whi^ even now I am not strong enongh to hear 
ipoken of. That is one of thenu*^ 




The Captain^ the Chemist^ and the Lascar, 219 

" The history of your faithful Mtijeebez there is a singular 
one, is it not?" a*ks the student, rising from his books, and 
advancing to the window. 

''A very singtilar one. His master, an Englishman, with 
whom he came from Calcutta, und to whom he was devotedly 
attached * 

•* I was indeed, sahib," said the Indian, in very good English, 
but with a strong foreign accent. 

'* This master, a rich nabob, was murdered, in the house of 
his sister, by his own nephew." 

"Yery horrible, and very unnatural! Was the nephew 
hungP" 

** No. The jury brought in a verdict of insanity : he was 
sent to a madhouse, where no doubt hn stiil remains confined 
Mujeebez was not present at the trial ; he had escaped by a 
miracle with his own life ; for the murderer, coming into the 
little room in which he slept, and finding him stirring, gave him 
a blow on the head, which placed him for some time m a very 
precarious state." 

"And did you see the murderer's face, Mujeebez P" asks 
Monsieur Blurosset. 

" No, sahib. It was dark, I could see nothing. The blow 
stunned me : when I recovered my senses, I was in the hospital, 
where I lay for months. The shock had brought on what the 
doctors called a nervous fever. For a long time I was utterly 
incapable of work ; when I left the hospital I had not a friend 
in the world; but the good lady, the sister of my poor murdered 
master, gave me money to return to India, where I was kit- 
mutghar for some time to an English colonel, in whose house- 
hold I learned the language, and whom I did not leave till I 
entered the service of the good Captain." 

The " good Captain" laid his hand affectionately on his fol- 
lower's white-turbaned head, something with the protecting 
gesture with which he might caress a favourite and faithful 
dog. 

" After you had saved my life, Muieebez," he said. 

" I would have died to save it, sahib," answered the Ilindoo. 
** A kind word sinks deep in the heart of the Indian." 

"And there was no doubt of the guilt of this nephew P" askf 
Blurosset. 

" I cannot Say, sahib. I did not know the English language 
then; I could understand nothing told me, except my poot 
master's nephew was not hung, but put in a madhouse." 

" Did you see him — ^this nephew ? 

"Yes, sahib, the night before the murder. He came into the 
room with my master when he retired to rest. 1 ^"a.^ \sasv vs^ 
for a minute, for I left the room aa tAxc^ encA^t^^^ 



220 The Trmi §f A» Eerftmi. 

** Should joa Imov Inm again ?^ inquired tlie rtodenL 

** Anjwhae. nlob. He was a liaadacaie joong maii» witk 
dark hazel eyes and a hnght smileL He did not look Hke a mnr- 
derer." 

** That is scaroelj a sore role to go hy, is it» Laozent ? ** asks 
the Captain, with a bitter emile. 

** I d<m*t know. A black heart will make strange lines in the 
handHomest face, which are translatable to the doee obeerrer." 

** Now," says the officer, rising, and sorrendering his pipe to 
the hands of nis watchfiil attendant — " now for mj moming*8 
rido, and you will haye the place to yourself for your scientilio 
viHitors, Laurent." 

•* You will not go where you are likely to meet ^** 

•* Anyone I know ? No, Blurosset. The lonelier the road the 
boitor I like it. I miss the deep jungle and the tiger-hunt, eh, 
Muj<vl)cz? — we miss them, do we not? " 

'I^hc Hindoo's eyes brightened, as he answered eagerly, *' Yes, 
indiXMl, sahib." 

(Captain Lansdown (that is the name of the officer) is of 
Fn»nch extraction ; he speaks English perfectly, but still with a 
slightly foreign accent. He has distrng^uished himself by his 
marv'cUous courage and military genius in the Punjaub, and is 
oyor in I^ngland on leaye of absence. It is singular that so 
great a friendship should exist between this impetuous, danger- 
Ening soldier, and the studious French chemist and pseudo- 
magician, Laurent Blurosset; but that a yery firm friendship 
dix>s exist between them is eyident. They Lye in the same 
house ; are both waited upon by Egerton Lansdown's Indian 
servant, and are constantly together. 

Laurent Blurosset, after becoming the fashion in Pans, is 
now the rage in London. But he rarely stirs beyond the thres- 
hold of his own door, though his presence is eagerly sought for 
in scientific coteries, where opinion is still, howeyer, divided as 
to whether lie is a charlatan or a^reat man. The materialists 
sneer — the spiritualists belieye. His disinterestedness, at any 
rate, speaks in favour of his truth. He will receive no money 
tratCL any of his numerous visitors. He will serve them, he 
says, if ne can, bat he will not sell the wisdom of the mighty 
dead ; for that is something too grand and solemn tio be made 
a thing of barter. His discoveries in chemistry havo made him 
tuffioienUy rich ; and he can afford to devote lumself to science^ 
In tfie hope of finding trutli for his reward. He asks no better 
rtoompense than the glory of the light ho seeks. We leave him, 
llfe^n, to his eager and inquisitive visitors, while the Captain 
yrx^KM slowly through Oxford Street, on his way to the Edgwar^ 
Scad, through whiob he emerge iuto the country. 



The New Milkman in Park Lane, HI 

CHAPTER V. 

THE NEW MILKMAN IN PAEK LANE. 

I^HE post of kitchenmaid in the household of the Gonnt de 
MaroUes is no nnimportant one, and Mrs. Moper is accounted 
a person of some consequence in the servants* hall. The French 
chef, who has his private sitting-room, wherein he works 
elaborate and scientific culinary combinations, which, when he 
condescends to talk English, he designates "plates," has of 
course very little commimication wim the household. Mrs. 
Moper is his prime minister; he gives his orders to her for 
execution, and throws himself back in his easy-chair to thinh 
out a dish, while his handmaiden collects for him the vulgar 
elements of his noble art. Mrs. Moper is a very good cook her- 
self; and when she leaves the Count de Marolles she will go 
into a family where there is no foreigner kept, and will have 
forty pounds per a.nnum and a still-room of her own. She is in 
the caterpillar stage now, Mrs. Sarah Moper, and is content to 
write herself down kitchenmaid ad interim. 

The servants*-hall dinner and the housekeeper's repast art 
both over ; but the preparations for the dinner have not yet 
begun, and Mrs. Moper and Liza, the scullerymaid, snatch 
haif-an-hour's calm before the coming storm, and sit down to 
dam stockings, — 

" Which," Mrs. Moper says, " my toes is through and my 
heels is out, and never can I get the time to set a stitch. For 
time there isn't any in this house for a under-servant, which 
under-servant I will be no more than one year longer ; or say 
my name's not Sarah Moper." 

Liza, who is mending a black stocking with white thread (and 
a very fanciful effect it has too), evidently has no wish to dis- 
pute such a proposition. 

" Indeed, Mrs. Moper," she said, " that's the truest word as 
ever you've spoke. It's well for them as takes their wages for 
weann' silk gowns, and oilin' of their hair, and lookin' out of 
winder to watch the carriages go in at Ghrosvenor Gate ; which, 
don't tell me as Life Guardsmen would look up imperdent, if 
they hadn't been looked down to likewise." Eliza gets rathe)' 
obscure here. " This 'ouse, Mrs. M., for upper-servants may be 
'eaven, but for xmders it's more like the pmce as is pronounced 
like a letter of the alphabet, and isn't to be named by me." 

There is no knowmg how far this rather revolutionary style 
of conversation might nave gone, for at this moment there came 
that familiar sound of the clink of milk-pails on the pavement 
•.bove, and the London cry of milk. ^ ' 

" It's Bugden with the milk, lAza \ t\iet% -w^-a ^ v^sjiJ^ ^'^ ^^*^ 



M^ The Trail of the Serpent 

wrong in the last bill, Mrs. Mellflower says. Ask him to ooine 
down and correctifjr it, will yon, LizaP*' 

Liza ascends the area steps and parleys with the milkman ; 
presently he comes jingHng down, intk his pails swin^ng against 
the railings ; he is ratiaer awkward with his pails, tms milkman, 
and I'm afitdd he mnst spill more milk than he sells, as the 
Park Lane pavements testify. 

" It isn't JBugden/' says Liza, explanatory, as she nshers him 
into the kitchen. '* Bngden 'as 'nrt his leg, a-milkin' a cow wot 
kicks when the flies worrits, and 'as sent this yonng man, as is 
rather new to the business, but is anxious to do his best." 

The new milkman enters the kitchen as she concludes her 
speech, and releasing himself from the pails, expresses his readi- 
ness to settle any mistake in the weekly bill. 

He is rather a good-looking fellow, this milkman, and he has 
a very curly head of flaxen hair, preposterously light eyebrows, 
and dark hazel eyes, which form ratner a piquant contrast. I 
don't suppose Mrs. Moper and Liza think nim bad-looking, for 
they beg nim to sit down, and the scullerymaid thrusts the 
black stocking, on which she was heretofore engaged, into a 
table-drawer, and gives her hair a rapid extemporaiy Bmoothing 
with the palms of her hands. Mr. Bugden's man seems by no 
means disinclined for a httle friendly chat: he tells them now 
new he is to the business; how he thinks he should scarcely 
have chosen cowkeeping for his way of life, if he'd known as 
much about it as he does now ; how there's many things in the 
milk business, such as horses' brains, warm water and treacle, 
and such-like, as goes against his conscience; how he's quite 
new to London and London ways, having come up only lately 
from the country. 

" Whereabouts in the country P " Mrs. Moper asks. 

" Berkshire," the yoimg man replies. 

** Lor'," jyirs. Moper says, "never was anything so remark- 
able. Poor Moper come from Berkshire, and knowed every inch 
of the country, and so I think do I, pretty well. What part of 
Berkshire, Mr.— Mr. P" 

** Volpes," suggested the young man. 

" What part of Berkshire, Mr. Volpes P" 

Mr. Volpes looks, strange to say, rather at a loss to answer 
this very natural and simple inquiry. He looks at Mrs. Moper, 
then at Liza, and lastly at the pails. The pails seem to assist 
bis memory, for he says, very distinctly, " Burley Scuffers." ^ 

It is Mrs. Mop^s turn to look puzzled now, and she exclaima 
- Burley " 

"Scuffers" replies the yonng man. "Burley Scuffers, market 
iown, fourteen miles on this side o? "Re^L^YXi^, Tlhft •Ohiooties,' 
JSir Ybrrid^ Tidstram's place, is a tmX© «bia3L «b "VwiM ^ts\» <il SiaA 



The New Milhntm in Park Lane. 223 

'Hieid^B no dispnting bucIl an accnrate and detailed description 
as this. Mrs. Moper says it's odd, all the times she's been to 
Beading — "which I wish I had as many sovereigns," she mntters 
in parenthesis — never did she remember passing through "Bnrley 
Scnffers." 

" It's a pretty little town, too," says the milkman ; " there's a 
lime-tree avenne jnst out of the High Street, called Pork- 
butchers* Walk, as is crowded with young people of a Sunday 
evening after church." 

Mrs. Moper is quite taken with this description; and says, 
the very next time she goes to Reading to see poor Moper's old 
mother, she will make a point of going to Burley Scuffers during 
her stay. 

Mr. Vol pes says, he would if he were she, and that she 
couldn't employ her leisure time better. 

They talk a good deal about Berkshire ; and then Mrs. Moper 
relates some very interesting facts relative to the late Mr. Moper, 
and her determination, " which upon his. dying bed it was his 
comfort so to think," never to marry again ; at which the milk- 
man looks grieved, and says the gentlemen will be very bHnd 
imdeed to their own interests if they don't make her change her 
mind some day; and somehow or ottier (I don't Stippose servants 
often do such things), they get to talking about their master and 
their mistress. Tne milkman seems quite interested in this 
subject, and, forgettmg in how many houses the innocent liquid 
he dispenses may be required, he sits with his elbows on the 
kitchen-table, Hstening to Mrs. Mopeir's remarks, and now and 
then, when she wanders from her subject, drawing her back to 
it with an adroit question. She didn't know much about the 
Count, she said, for the servants was most all of 'em new ; they 
only brought two people with them from South America, which 
was Monsieur St. Mirotaine, the chef, and the Countess's French 
maid, [Mademoiselle Finette. But she thought Monsieur de 
Marolles very 'aughty, and as proud as he was 'igh, and thai 
madame was very unhappy, "though it's hard to know with 
them furriners, Mr. Volpes, what is what," she continues ; " aud 
madame's gloomy ways may be French for happiness, for all I 
knows." 

"He's an Englishman, the Count, isn't heP" asks Mr. Volpes. 

"A Englishman! Lor* bless your heart, no. They're both 
French ; she's of Spanish igstraction, I believe, and £hey lived 
since their marriage mostly in Spanish America. But they 
alwavs speaks to each other in French, when they do speak ; 
which them as waits upon them says isn't often." 

" He's very rich, I suppose," says the milkman. 

"Eichl" cries Mrs. Moper, "the money as that manhaa ^A 
Uiey say is fabelloos; and he's a Teguial Wwaaa^s TSiajs3L\R^,^^'^sn^ 



224 The Trail qf the Serpent 

at Ids bank every daj, rides off to the City as pxmctnal as the 
clock strikes ten. Lor', by the bye, Mr. Volpes," says Mrs. 
Moper suddenly, "you don't happen to know of a tempory tiger, 
do you P" 

" A temporary tiger ! '* Mr. Yolpes looks considerably puzzled. 

" Why, you see, the Count's tiger, as wasn't higher than the 
kitchen table I do believe, broke his arm the other day. . He 
was a-haiigin' on to the strap behind the cab, a-standin' upon 
nothing, as them boys will, wnen the vehicle was knocked agen 
an omnibus, and his arm bein' wrenched sudden out of the 
strap, snapped like a bit of sealing-wax ; and they've took him 
to the hospital, and he's to come back as soon as ever he's well ; 
for he's a deal thought on, bein' a'most the smallest tiger at 
the West-end. So, if you happen to know of a boy as would 
come temporary, we should be obliged by your sending him 
round." 

** Did he know of a boy as would come temporary ? " Mr. 
Budgen's young man appeared so much impressed by this 
question, that tor a minute or two he was quite incapable of 
answering it. He leaned his elbows on the kitchen table, with 
his face buried in his hands and his fingers twisted in his flaxen 
hair, and when he looked up there was, strange to say, a warm 
flush over his pale complexion, and something like a triumphant 
sparkle in his dark brown eyes. 

"Nothing could fall out better," he said; "nothing, nothing!" 

" What, the poor lad breaking his arm P" asked Mrs. Moper, 
in a tone of surprise. 

" No, no, not that," said Mr. Budgen's young man, just a 
little confused ; " what I mean is, that I know the very boy to 
suit you — ^the very boy, the very boy of all others to undertake 
the business. Ah," he continued in a lower voice, " and to go 
through with it, too, to the end." 

" Why, as to the business," replied Mrs. Moper, " it ain't 
overmuch, hangin' on behind, and lookin' knowm', and givin' 
other tigers as good as they bring, when waitin' outside the 
Calting^ or the Anthimv/m ; which tigers as is used to the highest 
names in the peerage familiar as their meat and drink, will go 
on contemptuous about our fambly, callin' the bank * the shop,* 
and a-askin', till they got our lad's blood up (which he had had 
his guinea lessons from the May Fair Mawler, and were better 
left alone), when the smash was a-comin', or whether we meant 
to give out three-and- sixpence in the pound like a honest houses 
or do the shabby thing and clear ourselves by a compensation 
with our creditors of fourpence-farthingp Ah," continued Mrs. 
Moper, gravely, " maiiy's the time that child have come hom« 
with his nose as big as the 'ead of a six-week old baby, 
mad no eyea at ail as any one could discover, which he'd beoi 



Signor Mosqueifi relates an Adventure* 25.5 

that knocked about in a stand-up fight with a lad three times 
his weight and size." 

**Then I can send the boy, and yon'll get him the situation?" 
said Mr. Budgen's young man, who did not seem particularly 
interested in the rather elaborate recital of the exploits of the 
mvaUd tiger. 

** He can have a character, I suppose? " inquired the lady. 

" Oh, ah, to be sure. Budgen will give him a character." 

"You will impress upon the youth," said Mrs. Moper, with 
^reat dignity, " that he wiU not be able to make this his perma- 
nence 'ome. The pay is good, and the meals is reg'lar, but the 
situation is tempoir." 

" All right," said Mr. Budgen's assistant ; " he doesn't want a 
situation for long. 1*11 bring him round myself this evening — 
good afternoon ; " with which very brief farewell, the flaxen- 
haired, dark-eyed milkman strode out of the kitchen. 

" Hum ! " muttered the cook, " his manners has not the 
London polish : I meant to have ast him to tea." 

" Why, I'm blest," exclaimed the scuUerymaid suddenly, "if 
he haven't been and gone and left his yoke and pails behind 
him ! Well, of all the strange milkmen 1 ever come a-nigh, if 
he ain't the strangest ! " 

She might have thought him stranger still, perhaps, this 
light-haired milkman, had she seen him h&il a stray cab m Brook 
Street, spring into it, snatch off his flaxen locks, whose hyacin- 
thine waves were in the convenient form known by that most 
disagreeable of words, a wig ; snatch off also the holland blouse 
common to the purveyors of milk, and rolling the two into a 
bundle, stuff them into the pocket of his shooting-jacket, before 
throwing himself back into the comer of the vehicle, to enjoy a 
meditative cigar, as his charioteer drives his best pace in the 
direction of that transpontine temple of Esculapius, Mr. Parley's 
surgery. Daredevil Dick has made the first move in that fearful 
game of chess which is to be played between him and the 
Count de Marolles. 



OHAPTEE VI. 

StGNOE MOSQITETTI RELATES AN ADVENTina. 

On the evening which follows the very afternoon during which 
Eichard Marwood made his first anol only essay in the milk- 
trade, the Count and Countess de Marolles attend a musical 
party — I beg pardon, I should, gentle reader, as you know, have 
said a soiree musicale — at the house of a lady of high rank 
in Belgrave Square. London was almost empty, q.ia<1 \3oii^ ^^^^ 
one of the last parties of the seaBon.', \>u\)\\.\a ^ ^o^^S^i ^«^S^^^ 



226 The Trail of the Serpeni 

impressive sight to see — even when London is, according to evetj 
fasnionable authority, a perfect Sahara — how many splendid 
carnages will draw up to the awninff my Lady erects over the 
pavement before her door, when she annonnces herself "at 
home;" how many gor^eonsly dressed and lovely women will 
descend therefrom, scentmg the night air of Belgravia with the 
fragrance wafted from their waving tresses andpoint-d'Alen^on- 
boruered handkerchiefs ; lending a perfume to the autumn violets 
struggling out a fading existence m Dresden boxes on the draw- 
ing-room balconies ; lending the light of their diamonds to the 
gas-lamps before the door, and the light of their eyes to help out 
the aforesaid diamonds ; sweeping the autumn dust and evening 
dews with the borders of costly silks, and marvels of Lyons and 
Spitalficlds, and altogether glorifying the ground over which 
they walk. 

(M this evening one range of windows, at least, in Belgrave 
Squuro is brilliantly illummated. Lady Londersdon's Musical 
Wednesday, the last of the season, has been inaugurated with 
echft by a scena from Signora Scorici, of Her Majesty's Theatre 
and the Nobility's Concerts ; and Mr. Argyle Fitz-Bertram, the 
great English basso-baritono, and the handsomest man in Eng- 
land, has just shaken the square with the buffo duet from the 
Cenerentola — in which performance he, Argyle, has so entirely 
swamped that amiable tenor Signer Maretn, that the latter 
gentleman has serious thoughts of calling him out to-morrow 
morning ; which idea he would carry into execution if Argyle 
Eitz- Bertram were not a crack shot, and a pet pupil of Mr. 
Angelo's into the bargain. 

But even the great Argyle finds himself — ^withthe exception of 
being up to his eyes in a slough of despond, in the way of platonic 
flirtation with a fat duchess of fifty — comparatively nowhere. 
The star of the evening is the new tenor. Signer Mosquetti, 
who has condescended to attend Lady Londersdon's Wed- 
nesday. Argyle, who is the best-natured fellow as well as the 
most generous, and whose great rich voice wells up from a heart 
as sound as his lungs, throws himself back into alow easy-chair 
— it creaks a little under his weight, by the bye — and allows the 
duchess to flirt with him, while a buzz goes round the room ; 
Mosquetti is going to sing. Argyle looks lazily out of his half- 
closed dark eyes, with that peculiar expression which seems to 
say — " Sing your best, old fellow I My g in the bass clef would 
crush your naif-octave or so of falsetto before you knew where 
you wei'e, or your * Pretty Jane ' either. Sing away, my boy I 
We'll have * Scots wha hale ' by-and-by. I've some friends down 
in Essex who want to hear it^ and the wind's in the right quar'i 
ter for the voice to traveL They won't hear you five doom cC 
SJngfonrheBtJ* 



Signer Mosquetti relates m Adventure. 227 

Just as Signor Mosquetti is about to take his place at the 
piauo, the Count and Countess de Marolles advance through the 
crowd about the doorway. 

Yalerie, beautiful, pale, calm as ever, is received with considei- 
able empressement by her hostess. She is the heiress of one of 
the most ancient and aristocratic families in France, and is 
moreover the wife of one of the richest men in London, so is 
sure of a welcome throughout Belgravia. 

" Mosquetti is going to sing," murmurs Lady Londersdon ; 
"you were charmed with him in the Lucia, of course? Toa 
have lost Pitz-Bertram*s duet. It was charming ; all the chan- 
deliers were shaken by his lower notes ; charming, I assure you. 
He'll sing again after Mosquetti : the Duchess of C. is eprise, as 
you see. I beHeve she is perpetually sending him diamond 
rings and studs ; and the Duke, they do say, has refused to be 
responsible for her account at Storr's." 

Valerie's interest in Mr. Pitz-Bertram'g conduct is not very 
intense ; she bends her haughty head, just slightly elevating her 
arched eyebrows with the faintest indication of weU-bred sur- 
prise; but she is interested in Signor Mosquetti, and avails 
herself of the seat her hostess offers to her near Erard's grand 
piano. The song concludes very soon after she is seated ; but 
Mosquetti remains near the piano, talking to an elderly gentle- 
man, who is evidently a connoisseur. 

" I have never heard but one man, Signor Mosquetti," says 
this gentleman, " whose voice resembled yours." 

There is nothing very particular in the words, but Valerie's 
attention is apparently arrested by them, for she fixes her eyes 
intently on Signor Mosquetti, as though awaiting his reply. 

** And he, my lord ? " says Mosquetti, interrogatively. 

" He, poor fellow, is dead." Now indeed Valerie, pale with a 
pallor greater than usual, listens as though her whole soul hung 
on the words she heard. 

*' He is dead," continued the gentleman. " He died young, in 
the zenith of his reputation. His name was — ^let me see — I 
heard him in Paris last ; his name was ** 

" De Lancy, perhaps, my lord P " says Mosquetti. 

•* It was De Lancy ; yes. He had some most pecuh'ar and at 
the same time most beautiful tones in his voice, and you appear 
to me to have the very same." 

Mosquetti bowed at the compliment. "It is singular, my 
lord," he said ; *' but I doubt if those tones are quite natural to 
me. I am a littie of a mimic, and at one period of my life 
I was in the habit of imitating poor De Lancy, whose singmg I 
^erj much admired." 

Yalerie grasps the delicate fan in her nervous hand so tightly 
that the group of courtiers and fait 'Uvjdi<^%> oS. ^OaaNassv^ ^ \jks«j 



S^S^k 



228 The Trail of the Serpent 

Qoatorze, dancing nothing particular on a bine cload, are croslieci 
out of all symmetij as she listens to this conversation. 

" I was, at tlie time I knew De Lancy, merely a chorus-singer 
at the Italian Opera, Paris." 

The listeners draw nearer, and form quite a circle round Mos- 
quetti, who is the lion of the night ; even Argyle Fitz-Bertram 
pricks up his ears, and deserts the Duchess in order to hear this 
conversation. 

" A low chorus-singer," he mutters to himself. " So help me, 
Jupiter, I knew he was a nobodv." 

•* This passion for mimiciTf said Mosquetti, " was so great 
that I acquired a sort of celebrity throug-hout the Opera House, 
and even beyond its walls. I could imitate De Lancy better, 
perhaps, than any one else ; for in height, figure, and general 
appearance I was said to resemble him." 

" You do," said the gentleman ; ** you do very much resemble 
the poor fellow." 

** This resemblance one day gave rise to quite an adventure, 
which, if I shall not bore you " he glanced round. 

There is a general murmur. "Bore us! No I Delighted, 
enraptured, charmed above all things ! " Fitz-Bertram is quite 
energetic in this omnes business, and says, " No, no 1 " — mutter- 
ing to himself afterwards, " So help me, Jupiter, I knew the 
fellow was a nuisance ! " 

" But the adventure ! Pray let us hear it ! " cried eager voices. 

"Well, ladies and gentlemen, I was a careless reckless fellow; 
quite content to put on a pair of russet boots which half swal- 
lowed me, and a green cotton-velvet tunic short in the sleeves 
and tight across the chest, and to go on the stage and sing in a 
chorus with fifty others, as idle as myself, in other russet boots 
and cotton-velvet tunics, which, as you know, is the court 
costume of a chorus-singer from the time of Charlemagne to 
the reign of Louis XY. I was quite happy, I say, to lounge 
on to the -Btage, unknown, unnoticed, badly paid and worse 
dressed, provided when the chorus was finished I had my ciga- 
rette, dominoes, and my glass of cognac in a third-rate cafe. I 
was playing one morning at those eternal dominoes — (and never, 
I think," said Mosquetti, parenthetically, "had a poor fellow so 
many double-sixes in his hand) — ^when I was told a gentleman 
wanted to see me. This seemed too good a joke — a gentleman 
for me 1 It couldn't be a limb of the law, as I didn't owe a far- 
thing — ^no Parisian tradesman being quite so demented as to 
give me credit. It was a gentleman — a very aristocratic-looking 
fellow ; handsome — ^but I didn't like his face ; affable — and yet 
J didn't like his manner." 

Ah, Valerie I you,may well listen now I 

**He wanted me, he said,'* continutJ Mosquetti, "to decide a 



Biffnor Mosquetti relates an Adventure. 229 

fittle wager. Some foolish girl, who had seen De Lancy on the 
stage, and who believed him the ideal hero of romance, and was 
only in too mnch danger of throwing her heart and fortune at 
his feel^ was to be disenchanted by any stratagem that conld be 
devised. Her parents had intrusted the management of tho 
affair to him, a relation of the lady's. Would I assist himP 
Would I represent De Lancy, and play a little scene in the 
Bois de Boulogne, to open the eyes of this silly boarding-school 
miss — ^would 1, for a consideration ? It was only to act a Httla 
stage play off the stage, and was for a good cause. I con- 
sented; and that evenmg, at half-past ten o'clock, under the 
shadow of the winter night and the leafless trees, I *' 

" Stop, stop ! Signor Mosquetti ! " cry the bystanders. 
" Madame 1 Madame de MaroUesI Water! Smelling-salts i 
YouT flacon, Lady Emily : she has fainted ! " 

No ; she has not fainted ; this is something worse than faint- 
ing, this convulsive agony, in which the proud form writhes, 
while the white and Evid lips murmur strange and dreadful 
words. 

" Murdered, murdered and innocent ! while I, vile dupe, pitiiul 
fool, was only a puppet in the hands of a demon ! " 

At this very moment Monsieur de Marolles, who has been 
summoned from the adjoining apartment, where he has been 
discussing a foiancial measure with some members of the lowoi 
House, enters hurriedly. 

" Valerie, Yalerie, what is the matter? *' he says, approaching 
his wife. 

She rises — ^rises with a terrible effort, and looks him foil m 
ihe face. 

" I thought, monsieur, tha^I knew the hideous abyss of your 
black soul to its lowest depfiis. I was wrong ; I nt>7er kne*y 
you till to-night." 

Imagine such strong language as this in a Belgravian 
drawingroom, and then you can imagine the astonishment oi 
the bystanders. 

** Good heavens I ** exclaimed Signor Mosquetti hurriedly. 

** What ? " cried they eagerly. 

" That is the very man I have been speaking of.** 

" That P The Count de Marolles ? " 

" The man bending over the lady who has fainted.** 

Petrified Belgravians experience a mew sensation — surprise— 
and rather like it. 

Argyle Fitz-Bertram twists his black moustachios reflectively, 
and mutters — 




have 
Uttle 



230 The Trail of the Serpent. 

CHAPTER yn. 

THB eOLDEir 8SCKBT IS TOLD, AND THB GOLDBV SOWL D 

BBOKEK. 

The new tiger, or, as he is called in the kitchen, the "temporjf 
tiger," takes his place, on the morning after Lady Londersdon's 
Wednesday, behind the Connt de MaroUes' cab, as that gentle- 
man drives into the City. 

There is little augury to be drawn from the pale smooth face 
of Raymond de Marolles, though Si^or Mosquetti's revelation 
has made his T)osition rather a critical one. TiU now he has 
ruled Valerie with a high hand; and though never conquering 
the indomitable spirit of the proud Spanish woman, he nas at 
least forced that spirit to do the will oi his. But now, now that 
she knows the trick put upon her — now that she kn'^ws that tibe 
man she so deeply adored did not betray her, but died the victim 
of another's treachery — that the blood in which she has steeped 
her soul was the blood of the innocent, — what if now, in her despe- 
ration and despair, she dares all, and reveals all ; what then P 

" Why, then," says Raymond de Marolles, cutting his horse 
over the ears with a deHcate touch of the whip, which stings 
home, though, for all its delicacy ; " why then, never shall it be 
said that Raymond Marolles found himself in a dilemma, with- 
out finding within himself the power to extricate himself. We 
are not conquered yet, and we have seen a good deal of life in 
thirty years — and not a Httle danger. Play your best card, 
Valerie ; I've a trump in my own hand to play when the time 
comes. Till then, keep dark. I tell you, my good woman, I 
have hothouses of my own, and don't want your Covent- Garden 
Exotics at twopence a bunch !" 

This last sentence is addressed to a woman, who pleads 
earnestly for the purchase of a wretched bunch of violets, 
which she holds up to tempt the man of fashion as she runs by 
the wheels of his cab, driving very slowly through the Strand. 

"Fresh violets, sir. Do, sir, please. Only twopence, just 
twopence, sir, for the love of charity. IVe a poor old woman it 
home, not related to me, sir, but I keep her. She's dyingf- 
starving, sir, and dying of old age." 

" Bah ! I tell you, my good woman, I'm not Lawrence Sterne 

on a sentimental journey, but a practical man of business. I 

don't give macaroons to donkeys, or save mythic old women from 

starvation. You'd better keep out of the way of the wheels — 

they'll be over your feet presently, and if you sufilM* from coma 

they may probably hurt you," says the philanthropic banker, 

in his politest tones. 

''Stop, stop /" suddenly exclaama tlie ^omsji, ^^i^l «il etisx^ 

tibat aJmost startles ev«i Raymond. "IVa 30^ Sa\\r— y\m\ 



TJie OoUen Secret is Told. 231 

No, not Jim ; Ws dead and gone, I know ; but yon, yon, the 
fine gentleman, tlie other brother. Stop, stop, I tell you, if j'on 
want to know a secret that's in the keeping of one who may die 
while I am talking here ! Stop, if yon want to know who you 
are and what yon are ! Stop ! 

Eaymond does pnll np at this last sentence. 

" My good woman, do not be so energetic. Every eye in the 
Strand is on us ; we shall have a crowd presently. Stay, wait 
for me in Essex Street; 1*11 get out at the comer; that's a 
quiet street, and we shall not be observed. Anything you have 
1x) tell me yon can tell me there." 

The woman obeys him, and draws back to the pavement, 
where she keeps pace with the cab. 

" A pretty time this for discoveries !" mutters the Count. 
" Who I am, and what I am ! It*s the secret, I suppose, that 
the twaddling old maniac in Blind Peter made such a row about. 
Who I am, and what I am I Oh, I dare say I shall turn out to 
be somebody great, as the hero does in a lady's novel. It*s a 

C'' 1 haven't the mark of a coronet behind my ear, or a bloody 
d on my wrist. Who I am, and what I am ! The son of a 
journeyman tailor perhaps, or a chemist's apprentice, whose aris- 
tocratic connections prevented his acknowledging my mother." 

He is at the comer of Essex Street by this time, and springs 
out of the cab, throwing the reins to the temporary tiger, whose 
sharp face we need scarcely inform the reader discloses the 
features of the boy Slosh. 

The woman is waiting for him; and after a few moments' 
earnest conversation, Raymond emerges from the street, and 
orders the boy to drive the cab home immediately: he is not 
going to the City, but is going on particular business elsewhere. 

Whether the "temporary tiger" proves himself worthy of 
the responsible situation he holds, and does drive the cab home, 
I cannot say; but I only know that a very small boy, in a 
ragged coat a great deal too large for him, and a battered hat 
so slouched over his eyes as quite to conceal his face from the 
casual .observer, creeps cautiously, now a few paces behind, 
now a hundred yards on the other side of the way, now disap- 
pearing in the shadow of a doorway, now reappearing at the 
corner of the street, but never losing sight of the Uount de 
Marolles and the purveyor of violets, as fliey bend their steps 
in the direction of Seven Dials. 

Heaven forbid that we should foUow them through all the 
turnings and twisting of that odoriferous neighbourhood* 
where foul scents, foiU sights, and fouler language abound; 
whence May Pair and Belgravia ehrink shuddeiSig. a« from an 
ill it is well for them to let alonft, «kaid «» >irtOTi% ^2M^\kfe ^^ 
mend who will : not they wlao laave "be^eivVsrcL iotXi^JvXsst '^ 



232 The Trail of the Serpent 

than to set disjointed times aright, or play the revolnticnist to 
the dethronement of the legitimate monarchy of Queen Star- 
vation and King Fever, to say nothing of the princes of the 
blood — ^Dirt, Drunkenness, Theft, and Murder. When John 
Jones, tired of the monotonous pastime of beating his wife's 
skull with a poker, comes to Lambeth and murders an Arch- 
bishop of Canterbury for the sake of the spoons, it will be time, 
in the eyes of Belgravia, to reform John Jones. In the mean- 
while we of the upper ten thousand have Tattersall*s and Her 
Majesty's Theatre, and John Jones (who, low republican, says 
he must have his amusements too) has such httle diversions as 
wife-murder and cholera to break the monotony of his existence. 

The Count and the violet-seller at last come to a pause. 
They had walked very quickly through the pestiferous streets, 
Raymond holding his aristocratic breath and shutting his 
patrician ears to me scents and the sounds around him. They 
come to a stand at last, in a dark court, before a tall lopsided 
house, with irresolute chimneypots, which looked as if the only 
thinff that kept them erect was the want of unanimity as to 
whidi way they should fall. 

Raymond, TWien invited by the woman to enter, looks suspi- 
ciously at the diugy staircase, as if wondering whether it would 
last his time, but at the request of his companion ascends it. 

The boy in the largo coat and slouched hat is playing marbles 
with another boy on the second-floor landing, and has evidently 
lived there all his life : and yet I*m puzzled as to who drove 
that cab home to the stables at the back of Park Lane. I fear 
it was not the " temporary tiger." 

The Count de Marolles and his guide pass the youthful 
gamester, who has just lost his second halfpenny, and ascend to 
the very top of the rickety house, the earrets of which are 
afflicted with intermittent ague whenever there is a high wind. 

Into one of these garrets the woman conducts Raymond, and 
on a bed— or its apology, a thing of shreds and patches, straw 
and dirt, which goes by the name of a bed at this end of the 
town — lies the old woman we last saw in Blind Peter. 

Eight years, more or less, have not certainly had the effect of 
enhancing the charms of this lady ; and there is something in 
her face to-day more terrible even than wicked old age or 
feminine drunkenness. It is death that lends those livid hues 
to her complexion, which all the cosmetics from Atkinson's or 
the Burlington Arcade, were she minded to use them, would 
never serve to conceal. Raymond has not come too soon if he 
is to hear any secret from those ghastly lips. It is some time 
before the woman, whom she still calls Silhkens, can make the 
dying hag understand who this fine gentleman is, and what it 
10 he wants with her; and even when she does succeed in 



The Golden Secret is Told. 238 

makmg Ler compreliend all this, the old womaa's sped3h is 
very obscure, and calculated to try the patience of a more 
amiable man than the Connt de Marolles. 

" Yes, it was a golden secret — a golden secret, eh, my dear P 
It was something to have a marquis for a son-in-law, wa&n't it, 
my dear, eh P " mumbled the dying old hag. 

" A marquis for a son-in-law ! What does the jibbering old 
idiot mean P '* muttered Raymond, whose reverence for his 
grandmother was not one of the strongest points in his com- 

gosition. " A marquis ! I dare say my respected progenitor 
ept a public-house, or something of that sort. A marquis ! 
The * Marquis of Granby,' most likely ! " 

"Tes, a marquis," continued the old woman, "eh, dear! 
And he married your mother — married her at the parish 
church, one cold dark November morning; and IVe got the 
c'tificate. Yes," she mumbled, in answer to Raymond's 
eager gesture, **IVe got it; but I*m not going to tell you 
where ; — no, not till I'm paid. I must be paid Jor that secret 
in gold— yes, in gold. They say that we don't rest any easier 
in our coffins for the money that's buried with us ; but I should 
like to lie up to neck in golden sovereigns new from the Mint, 
and not one light one amongst 'em." 

" Well," said Raymond, impatiently, " your secret ! I'm rich, 
and can pay for it. Your secret — quick !" 

" Well, he hadn't been married to her long before a change 
came, in his native country, over the sea yonder," said the old 
woman, pointing in the direction of St. Martin's Lane, as if she 
thought the British Channel flowed somewhere behind that 
thoroughfare. " A change came, and he got his rights again. 
One king was put down and another king was set up, and 
everybody else was massacred in the streets; it was — a — I 
don't know what' they call it ; but they're always a-doin' it. 
So he got his rights, and he was a rich man again, and a great 
man ; and then his first thought was to keep his marriage with 
my girl a secret. All very well, you know, my girl for a wife 
while he was giving lessons at a shilling a-piece, in Pa/rlez-vous 
Ffcmqais, and all that ; but now he was a marquis, and it was 
quite another thing." 

Raymond by this time gets quite interested ; so does the boy 
in the big coat and the slouched hat, who has transferred the 
field of nis gambling operations in the marble Hne to thi 
landing outside the garret door. 

"He wanted the secret kept, and I kept it for gold. I kept 
it even from her, your mother, my own ill-used girl, for gold: 
fcJhe never knew who he was; she thought he'd deserted her^ 
and she took to drinking ; she and I thxe^ ^cs^ol SsvVi *Ocv^ T>cq«t 
when we were mad drunk, and couldn't s\j?LTid ^csvvx '6»<^'aii^^»s^* 



284 The Trail of the Serpent. 

She died — don'fc yon ask me how. I told jou before not to ask 
me how my girl died — ^I'm mad enough without that question ; 
she died, and I kept the secret. For a long time it was gold to 
me» and he used to send me money regular to keep it dark ; 
but by-and-by the money stopped from coming. I got savage, 
but stiU I kept the secret ; because, you see, it was nothing 
when it was told, and there was no one rich enough to pay me 
to tell it. I didn't know where to find the marquis ; I only 
knew he was somewhere in France." 

** Frajice ? " exclaims Raymond. 

" Yes ; didn't I tell you France ? He was a French mar- 
quis — a refugee they called him when he first made acquaint- 
ance with my girl — a teacher of French and mathematics." 

" And his name — ^his name ? " asks Raymond, eagerly. 
•* His name, woman, if you don't want to drive me mad." 

"He called himself Smith, when he was a-teachin', my 
dear," said the old woman with a ghastly leer; "what are 
you going to pay me for the secret ? " 

" Whatever you like, only tell me — ^tell me before yon " 

** Die. Yes, deaiy ; there ain't any time to waste, is there P 
I don't want to make a hard bargain. Will you bury me up 
to my neck in gold ? " 

** Yes, yes ; speak !" He is almost beside himself, and raisea 
a threatening hand. The old woman grins. 

" I told you before that wasn't the way, deary. Wait a bit. 
Sillikens, give me that 'ere old shoe, will youP Look you 
here ! It's a double sole, and the marriage certificate is between 
the two leathers. IVe walked on it this thirty years and more." 

" And the name — ^the name P " 

" The name of the Marquis was De — d o " 

" She's dying ! Give me some water ! " cried Raymond. 

" De Ce — Ce " the syllables come in fitful gasps. Ray- 
mond throws some water over her face. 

** De Cevennes, my deair ! — and the golden secret is told.** 

And the golden bowl is broken ( 

Lay the ragged sheet over the ghastly face, Sillikens, and kneel 
down and pray for help in your utter loneliness ; for the guilty 
being whose soul has eone forth to meet its Maker was your only 
companion and stay, however frail that stay might be. 

Go out into the sunshine, Monsieur de MaroUes ; that which 
you leave behind in the tottering garret, shaken by an ague- 
paroxysm with the fitful autumn wind, is nothing so terrible to 
your eyes. 

Yon have accustomed yourself to the fJEice of Death before 
now; you have met that ^^rim potentate on his own groimcU 
and done wiHh him what it is jovx po^cj \a ^o -^nJQsi q^^tsVSdxsc^ 
w enrth — yoTj have made hka "oaeim V> T<m 



One Step Fwriher on the Biglit Track. 235 
CHAPTER YIII. 

OlffB STEP FUBTHEB ON THE RIGHT TEACK. 

It IB not a very romantio locality to which we mnst no^ con- 
inct the reader, oeing neither more nor less than the shop and 
surgery of Mr. Augustus Darley ; which temple of the healing 
god is scented, this autumn artemoon, with the mingled per- 
fumes of Cavendish and bird's-eye tobacco, Turkey rhubarb, 
whiskey-punch, otto of roses, and muffins ; conflictmg odours, 
which form, or rather object to form, an amalgamaBon, each 
particular effluvium assertmg its individuality. 

In the surgery Gus is seated, plajdng the intellectual and 
intensely exciting game of dominoes with our acquaintance of 
the Cheerful Cher(3:ee Society, Mr. Percy Cordonner. A small 
jug, without either of those earthenware conventionalities, spout 
or handle, and with Mr. Cordonner's bandanna stuflPed into the 
top to imprison the subtle essences of the mixture within, stands 
between the two gentlemen ; while Percy, as a guest, is accom- 
modated with a real tumbler, having only three trian^lar bits 
chipped out of the edge. Gus imbibes the exciting fluid from a 
cracked custard-cup, with paper wafered round it to keep the 
parts from separating, two of which cups are supposed to be 
equal (by just measurement) to Mr. P. C.'s tumbler. Before the 
small fire kneels the juvenile domestic of the young surgeon, 
toasting muffins, and presenting to the two gentlemen a pleasing 
study in anatomical perspective and the mysteries of foreshort- 
ening; to which, however, they are singularly inattentive, 
devotmg their entire energies to the pieces of spotted ivory 
in their hands, and the consumption, by equitabfe division, of 
the whiskey-punch. 

" I say, Gus," said Mr. Cordonner, stopping in the middle of a 
gulp of his favourite liquid, at the risk of strangulation, with as 
much alarm in his face as his placid features were capable ol 
exhibiting—" I say, this isn't the professional tumbler, is it ?" 

" Why, of course it is," said his friend. " We have only had 
that one since midsummer. The patients don't like it because 
It's chipped; but I always tell them, that after having gone 
through having a tooth out — ^particularly," he added parenthe- 
ticaDy, " as I take 'em out (pWty of lancet, forceps, and key, 
for their eighteen-pence) — they needn't grumble about haviug to 
rinse their mouths out of a cracked tumbler." 

Mr. Cordonner turned pale. 

" Do they do that? " he said, and dehberately shot his last 
sip of the dehcious beverage over thft k'ft^ ^i *Cckft \s^<i^«ssv% 
damsel, with bo good an aim t"h.at \\) m «b TCiajoxiKt ^gR>aj^>^^^ 
carl'papera, "It isn't friendly of yoxx, GfTx^r '^"^ ^"sjaL^^«^i«o.^ooa^ 
reprckcUifnlnesB, "to treat a felloe "^e \)di%** 



236 The Trait of the Serpent. 

" IVe all right, old boy," said Gus, laughing. " Sarah Jan€ 
washes it, you know. You wash the tumbler and things, don't 
you, Sarah Jane ? ** 

" Wash 'em P" answered the youthful domestic ; " I should 
think so, sir, indeed. Why, I wipes *em round reg'lar with my 
apron, and breathes on 'em to make 'em bright." 

" Oh, that'll do 1 " said Mr. Cordonner, piteously. " Don't 
investigate, Gus; you'll only make matters worse. Oh, why, 
why did I ask that question P Why didn't I remember * it's 

folly to be otherwise P ' That punch was dehcious — and now " 

He leant his head upon his nand, buried his face in his pocket* 
handkerchief, pondered in his heart, and was still. 

In the mean time the shop is not empty. Isabella is standing 
behind the counter, very busy with several bottles, a glass 
measure, and a pestle and mortar, making up a prescription, a 
cough mixture, from her brother's Latin, feather a puzzling 
document, this prescription, to any one but Bell ; for there are 
calculations about next year's Derby scribbled on the margin, 
and rough sketches of the Smasher, and a more youthful votary 
of the Smasher's art, sumamed " Whooping wniiam," pen- 
cilled on the back thereof; but to Bell it seems straightforward 
enough. At any rate, she dashes away with the bottles, the 
measure, and the pestle and mortar, as if she knew perfectly 
well what she was about. 

She is not alone in the shop. A gentleman is leaning on the 
counter, watching the busy white hands very intently, and ap- 
parently deeply interested m the progress of the cough-mixture. 
This gentleman is her brother's old friend, " Daredevil Dick." 

Richard Marwood has been a great deal at the surgerv since 
the night on which he first set foot in his old haunts ; lie has 
brought his mother over, and introduced that lady to Miss 
Darley. Mrs. Marwood was delighted with Isabella's frank 
manners and handsome face, and insisted on carrying her back 
to dine in Spring Gardens. Quite a sociable little dinner they 
had too, Richard being — ^for a man who had been condemned for 
a murder, and had escaped from a lunatic asylum — very cheerful 
indeed. The young man told Isabella all his adventures, till 
that young lady alternately laughed and cried — ^thereby afford- 
ing Richard's fond mother most convincing i)roof of tlie goodness 
of her heart — and was altogether so very orilliant and amusing, 
that when at eleven o'clock Gus came round from a very critical 
case (viz., a quarrel of the Cheerftds as to whether Gustavna 
Ponsonby, novelist and satirist, magazine-writer and poet, 
deserved tiie trouncing he had received m the " Friday Pillory") 
to take Bell home in a cab, the Httle trio simultaneously decla^^ 
that the evening had gone as if by magic I As if by magic ! 
fV2iat if to two out of those three uve evwm^ ^^ t^s&j ^q V^ 



One Siep JFurtUt^ tm the Bight Troeh. 237 

ttu^u h /here is a certain pink-le^^ged little gentleman, with 
wings, and a bandage ronnd his eyes, who, some people saj, is aj 
great a Tnagician in his way as Albcortns Magnns or l)octor Dee, 
and who has done as mnen mischief and worked as mnch rain 
in his own inanner as all the yiDanons saltpetre ever dng out of 
the bosom of the peaoefol, corn-growing, flower-bearine earth. 
That gentleman, I nave no donbt, presid^ on the occasi^. 

Thns the acquaintance of Bichard and Isabella had ripened 
into something verj much like friendship; and here ne is, 
watching her employed in the rather unromantic business o! 
making up a cougb-mixture for an elderly washerwoman of 
methodistical persuasions. But it is one of the fancies of the 
pink-l^ged gentleman aforesaid to lend his bandage to his 
victims; and there is nothing that John, William, Greorge, 
Heniy, James, or Alfired can do, in which Jane, Eliza, Susan, or 
Sarab will not see a dignity and a charm, or vice versa. 
Pshaw ! It is not Mokannah who wears the silver veil ; it is we 
who are in love with Mokannah who put on the glittering, 
blinding medium ; and, looking at that gentleman through the 
dazzle and the glitter, insist on thinking him a very handsome 
man, tOl some one takes the yeil off our eyes, and we straight- 
way fall to and abuse poor Mokannah, because he is not what 
we chose to fency him. It is verjr hard upon poor tobacei>- 
smoldng, beer-imbibing, card-playing, latch-key-loving Tom 
Jones, uiat Sophia will insist on elevating liim into a god, and 
then bdng angry with him because he is Tom Jones and foiul 
of bitter ale and bird's-eye. But come what may, the ]unk- 
legged gentleman must have his diversion, and no doubt his eYOi* 
twmkle merrily behind that bandage of his, to see the fools tliis 
wise world of ours is made up of. 

"You could trust me, Isabella, then,** said Bichard; "you 
could trust me, in spite of all — in spite of my wasted youtb aiul 
the blight upon my name?'* 

"Do we not all trust you, Mr. Marwood, with our entirt> 
hearts ?** answered the young lady, taking shelter under ci'»Yor 
of a very wide generality. 

**!N'ot 'Mr. Marwood,' BeU; it sounds very cold friMu Wxa 
lips of my old Mend's sister. Every one calls me llioharii, ami 
I, witiiout once asking permission, have called you Boll. OuP 
me Bichard, Bell, if you trust me." 

She looks him in the face, and is silent for a moment ; hoi 
heart beats a great deal faster — so fast that her lips can scarcely 
shape the words she speaks. 

" i do trust you, Bichard; I believe your heart to be goodness 
and truth itself.*' 

"Is it worth having, then, BeUP 1 -wouV^X. ^^ ^^"^ *^^«=*^ 
qneatian if I had not a hope now — ay, andiio\* ^xj^clti ou \^€iJ^^ ^^^^ 



238 The Trail of the Serpent. 

either — ^io see my name cleared from the stam that rests upon ii. 
If there is any iJuth in my heart, Isabella, that truth is yours 
alone. Can you trust me, as the woman who loves trusts — 
through life and till death, under every shadow and through 
every cloud?" 

I don't know whether essence of peppermint, tincture of 
myrrh, and hair-oil, are the proper mgredients in a cough- 
mixture ; but I know that Isabella poured them into the glass 
measure very liberally. 

" You do not answer me, Isabella. Ah, you cannot trust the 
branded criminal — the escaped lunatic — the man the world calls 
a murderer ! " 

** Not trust you, Bichard ? " Only four words, and only one 

fiance from the gray eyes into the brown, and so much told 1 
lo much more than I could tell in a dozen chapters, told in those 
four words and that one look ! 

Gus opens the half-glass door at this very moment. " Are 
you commg to tea?" he asks; "here's Sarah Jane up to her 
eyes in grease and muflins." 

" Yes, Gus, dear old friend," said Eichard, laying his hand on 
Barley's shoulder ; " we're coming in to tea immediately, 
brother I " 

Gus looked at him with a glance of considerable astonish- 
ment, shook him heartily by the hand, and gave a long whistle ; 
after which he walked up to the counter and examined the 
cough-mixture. 

" Oh ! " he said, "I suppose that's why you've put enough 
laudanum into this to poison a small regiment, eh. Bell ? Per- 
haps we may as well throw it out of the window ; for if it goes 
out of the door I shall be hung for wholesale murder." 

They were a very merry party over the little tea-table ; and 
if nobody ate any of the muffins, which Mr. Cordonner called 
'* embodied indigestions," they laughed a great deal, and talked 
still more — so much so, that Percy declared his reasoning 
faculties to be quite overpowered, and wanted to be distinctly 
informed whether it was Richard who was going to marry Gus, 
or Gus about to unite himself to the juvenile domestic, or he 
himself who was to be married against his inclination — which, 
seeing he was of a yielding and peace-loving disposition, was 
not so unlikely — or, in short, to use his own expressive language, 
•* what the row was all about P " 

Nobody, however, took the trouble to set Mr, P. C.'s doubta 
at rest, and he drank his tea with perfect contentment, but with- 
out sugar, and in a dense intellectual fog. " It doesn't matter," 
he murmured ; " perhaps Bichard will turn again and be Lord 
Mayor of London town, and then my children will read hia 
»dv(mtures in a future Pinnnck, and they may understand it. 



Ome Step fv/riher on the Might Track. 239 

tt*8 a great tiling to Le a cliild, and to nnderstand thoae 
Bort of thin^. "mien I was six years old I knew who William 
Rnfus mamed, and how many people died in the Plague of 
London. I can't say it made me any happier or better, but I 
dare say it was a great advantage." 

At tiiis moment the beU hung at the sho^-door ^a noisy 
preventive of petty larceny, giving the alarm if any juvenile 
delinquent had a desire to abstract a bottle of castor-oil, or a 
camomile-^iU or so, for his peculiar benefit) rang violently, and 
our old finend Mr. Peters burst into the shop, and through the 
shop into the parlour, in a state of such excitement that his 
very fingers seemed out of breath. 

" Back again P " cried Richard, starting up with surprise ; for 
be it known to the reader that Mr. Peters had only the day 
before started for Slopperton-on-the-Sloshy to hunt up evidence 
about this man, whose veir image lay buried outside that town. 

Before the fingers of Mr. Peters, which quite shook with 
excitement, could shape an answer to Richard's exclamation of 
surprise, a very dignified elderly gentleman, whose appearance 
was almost clericgd, followed the detective into the room, and 
bowed politely to the assembled party. 

" I will take upon myself to oe my own sponsor," said that 
gentleman. " If, as I beheve, I am speaking to Mr. Marwood," he 
added, looking at Richard, who bowed affirmatively, " it is to the 
interest of both of us — of you, sir, more especially — that we should 
become acquainted. I am Dr. Tappenden, of Slopperton." 

Mr. Cordonner, having poHtely withdrawn himself from the 
group so as not to interfere with any confidential communica- 
tion, was here imprudent enough to attempt to select a book 
from the young surgeon's hanging-hbrary, and, in endeavouring 
to take down ttie tlurd volume of Bragetonne, brought down, as 
usual, the entire hterary shower-bath on his devoted head, and 
sat quietly snowed up, as it were, in loose leaves of Michel 
Levy's shilling edition, and fragments of illustrations by Tony 
Johannot. 

Richard looked a little puzzled at Dr. Tappenden' s intro- 
duction ; but Mr. Peters threw in upon his fingers this piece of 
information, — " He knows Mm ! " and Richard was immediately 
interested. 

"We are all Mends here, I believe?" said the schoolmaster, 
glancing round interrogatively. 

" Oh, decidedly. Monsieur d Artagnan," replied Percy, absently 
looking up from one of the loose leaves he had selected fo/ 
perus^ from those scattered around him. 

" Monsieur d' Artagnan I Your friend is pleased to bi 
fecetious," said the Doctor, with some indignation. 

" Oh, pray excuse him, sir. He ia oiA^ ^^euV\£^w\<^'' t^s^J^^^ 



240 the Trait of the Serpent. 

Richard. " My friend Peters informs me that you knovr tMfl 
man — this singular, this incomprehensible villain, whose gup- 
posed death is so extraordinary/ 

"He — either the man who died, or this man who is no"W 
occupying a high position in London — ^was for some years in my 
employ ; but m spite of what our worthy friend the detective 
B^s, I am inclined to think that Jabez "North, my tutor, did 
actually die, and that it was his body which I saw at the poHce- 
station." 

" Not a bit of it, sir," said the detective on his rapid fingers, 
" not a bit of it ! That death was a do — a do, out and out. It was 
too systematic to be anything else, and I was a fool not to see 
there was something black at the bottom of it at the time. 
People don't go and lay themselves out high and dry upon a 
heath, with clean soles to their shoes, on a stormy night, and the 
bottle in their hand — ^not took hold of, neither, but lying loose, 
you understand; put there — not clutched as a dying man 
clutches what his hand closes upon. I say this ain't how people 
make away with themselves when they cant stand life any 
longer. It was a do — a plant, such as very few but that man 
could be capable of; and that man's your tutor, and the death 
was meant to put a stop to all suspicion ; and while you was 
a-sighin' and a-groanin' over that poor yoxmg innocent, Mr. 
Jabez North was a-cuttin* a fine figure, and a-captivatin' a 
farrin heiress, with your money, or your banker's money, as hpd 
to bear the loss of tnem forged cheques." 

" But the likeness P " said Dr. Tappenden. " That dead man 
was the very image of Jabez North." 

" Yery likely, sir. There's mysterious goin's on, and some 
coincidences in this life, as well as in your story-books that's 
lent out at three half-pence a volume, keep *em three days and 
return 'em clean." 

" Well," continued the schoolmaster, " the moment I see this 
man I shall know whether he is indeed the person we want to 
find. If he should be the man who was my usher, I can prove 
a circumstance which will go a great way, Mr. Marwood, 
towards fixing your uncle's murder upon him." 

" And that is P " asked Richard, eagerly. 

But there is no occasion for the reader to know what it is just 
yet ; so we will leave the little party in the Friar Street surgery 
to talk this business over, which they do with such intense 
interest that the small hours catch them still talking of the same 
subject, and Mr. Percy Cordonner still snowed up in his comer, 
reading from the loose leaves the most fascinating olla podHda 
of Hterature, wherein the writings of Charles Dickens, George 
Sand, HarriBon Ainsworth, and Alexandre Dumas are blended 
ogether id the most delicious and exci^iiag c;OT^iv]^\Q>i[v^ 



Captain Lansdown overhears a Coni)ersaHon. 241 

CHAPTER IX. 

CAfTADT LANSBOWH OYERKEABS A CONYEBSATION WHICH AFPEASA 

TO INTEREST HIM. 

Laurent Blttrosset was a sort of rage at the West-end of 
Londou. What ^d they seek, these weary denizens of the 
West-end, but excitement? Excitement! No matter how ob- 
tained. If Laurent Blnrosset were a magician, so much the 
better ; if he had sold himself to the devil, so much the better 
ag^, and so much the more exciting. There was something 
almost approaching to a sensation in making a morning caQ 
upon a gentleman who had possibly entered into a contract with 
Sathanas, or ]put his name on the back of a bit of stamped paper 
payable at sight to Ladfer himselt. And then there was the 
slightest chance, the faintest shadow of a probability, of meeting 
the proprietor of the gentleman they called upon; and what 
could be more delightral than that r How did he visit Marl- 
borough Street — the proprietor? Had he a pass-key to the hall- 
door ? or did he leave his card with the servant, like any other of 
the gentlemen his pupils and allies P Or did he rise through a 
trap in the Brussels carpet in the drawingroom P or sHde through 
one of the sham Wouvermanns that adorned the walls P At any 
rate, a visit to the mysterious chemist of Marlborough Street 
was about the best thing to do at this fag-end of the worn-out 
London season; and Monsieur Laurent Blurosset was considered 
a great deal better than the Opera. 

It was growing dusk on the evening on which there was so 
much excitement in the little surgery in Friar Street, when a 
plain close carriage stopped at Monsieur Blurosset's door, and a 
lady alighted thickly veiled. The gracefol but haughty head is 
one we know. It is Yalerie, who, in the depth of her misery, 
comes to this man, who is in part the author of that misery. 

She is ushered into a small apartment at the back of the 
house, half study, half laboratory, Httered with books, manu- 
fccripts, crucibles, and mathematical instruments. On a Httle 
table, near a fire that bums low in the grate, are thrown in ii 
careless heap the well-remembered cards — ^the cards which eight 
years ago foretold the death of the king of spades. 

The room is empty when she enters it, and she seats herself in 
the depth of the shadow ; for there is no light but the flickering 
flame of the low fire. 

What does she think of, as she sits in the gloom of that silent 
apartment P Who shall say P What forest deep, what lonely 
ocean strand, what desert island, is more dismal than the back- 
room of a London house, at the window of which looks in a high 
black wall, or a dreary, smoke-dried, Yfeitd, N^%'e^Ja^Ae ^^^xv;-- 
menon which nobody on earth but tlie law^oT^ c^^x ^•51;^^^^*^^'^^ 



^ 



242 The Trail of tie Serpent, 

What does slie think of in this dreary roomP What eant she 
think of P What has she ever thought for eight years past but 
of the man she loved and murdered P And he was innocent ! 
As long as she had been convinced of his guilt, of his cruel and 
bitter ixeachery, it had been a sacrifice, that ordeal of the Novem- 
ber night. Now it took another colour ; it was a murder — and 
she a pitiful puppet in the hands of a master-fiend ! 

Monsieur Blurosset enters the room, and finds her sdane with 
these thoughts. 

" Madame," he says, "I have perhaps the honour of knowing 
youP" He has so many fair visitors that he thinks this one, 
whose face he cannot see, may be one of his old clients. 

"It is eight years since you have seen me, monsieur," she 
replies. " You have most likely forgotten me ? " 

" Forgotten you, madame, perhaps, but not your voice. That 
is not to be forgotten." 

"Indeed, monsieur — and why notP" 

" Because, madame, it has a peculiaritv of its own, which, as 
a physiologist, I cannot mistake. It is tne voice of one who has 
suffered?" 

"It is!— it is!" 

" Of one who has suffered more than it ie the common lot of 
woman to suffer." 

*•' You are right, monsieur." 

•* And now, madame, what can I do for you P** 

" Nothing, monsieur. You can do nothing for me but that 
which the commonest apothecary in this city who will sell me an. 
ounce of laudanum can do as well as you." ^ 

" Oh, has it come to that aeain P he says, with a shade of 
sarcasm in his tone. ** I remember, eight years ago " 

" I asked you for the means of death. I did not say I wished 
to die then, at that moment. I did not. I had a purpose in 
life. I have still." 

As she said these words the fellow-lodger of Blurosset — the 
Indian soldier. Captain Lansdown, who had let himself in with 
liis latch-key — crossed the hall, and was arrested at the half- 
open door of the study by the sound of voices within. I don't 
know how to account for conduct so unworthy of an officer and 
a ffentleman, but the captain stopped in the shadow of the dark 
hall and listened — as if life and death were on the words — ^to the 
voice of the speaker. 

" I have, I say, still a purpose in life — a solemn and a sacred 
oqe — ^to protect the innocent. However guilty I may be, thank 
Heaven I have still the power to protect my son." 

" You are married, madame P" 

" I am married. You know it as well as I, Monsieur Laurent 
Blarops'^; The man who first brought me to your apartment 



Captain Zansdown overscan a Conversation. 248 

mnst have been, if not your accompKce, at least your colleague. 
He revealed to yon his scheme, no clonbt, in order to secure your 
assistance in tliat scheme. I am married to a villain — such a 
villain as I think Heaven never before looked down upon.*' 

"And yon would protect your son, madame, from his 
father?'; 

Captain Lansdown's face gleams through the shadow as white 
as the face of Yaleiie herself, as she stands looking full at Mon- 
sieur Blurosset in the flickering fire-Kght. 

"And you would protect your son nom his father, madame?*' 
repeats the chemist. 

" The man to whom I am at present married is not the father 
of my son,** says Yalerie, in a cold calm voice. 

" How, madame P " 

"I was married before," she continued. "The son I so 
dearly love is the sdn of my first husband. My second marriage 
has oeen a marriage only in name. All jrour worthy colleague. 
Monsieur Kaymond MaroUes, stained his hands in innocent 
blood to obtain was a large fortune. He has that, and is con- 
tent ; but he shall not hold it long.'* 

" And your purpose in coming to me, madame P *' 

"Is to accuse you — ^yes, Monsieur Laurent Blurosset, to 
accuse you — as an accomplice in the murder of Graston de 
Lancy.' 

" An accomplice in a murder I " 

" Yes ; you sold me a poison— yon knew for what that poison 

was to be used; you were in the plot, the vile and demoniac 
plot, that was to tteep my soul in guilt. You prophesied the 
death of the inn I was intended to murder; you put the 
thought into my distracted brain — the weapon into my guilty 
band ; and while I suffer all the tortures which Heaven inflicts 
on those who break its laws, are you to go free ? No, monsieur, 
you shall not go free. Either join with me in accusing this 
man, and help me to drag him to justice, or by the light in the 
sky, by the life-blood of my broken heart — ^by the life of my 
omy child, I swear to denounce you I Gaston de Lancy shall 
notgo unavenged by the woman who loved and murdered him." 

Tne mention of tne name of Gaston de Lancy, the man she 
so dearly and devotedly loved, has a power that nothing else 
on earth has over Yalerie, and she breaks into a passionate 
torrent of tears. 

Laurent Blurosset looks on silently at this burst of anguish ; 
perhaps he regards it as a man of science, and can calculate to 
a moment how long it will last. 

The Indian officer, in the shadow of the doorway, is more 
affected than the chemist and philosopher, for he falls on bii 
knees by the threshold and hides nis pale face idl hi% 'bis&sAT.. 



t4A The Trail of ike Serpent. 

There is a silence of perhaps five miiiutes — ^a terrible sflenc^ 
it seems, only broken by the heaxtrending sobs of this despair- 
ing woman. At last Lanrent Blnrosset speaks — speaks in a 
tone in which she has never heard him speak before — ^in a tone 
in which, probably, very few have heard him speak — in a tone 
80 strange to him and his ordinary habits that it in a manner 
transforms him into a new man. 

" Yon say, madame, I was an accomplice of this man's. How 
if he did not condescend to make me an accomplice P How, if 
this gentleman, who, owing all his success in life to his unas- 
sisted viUany, has considerable confidence in his own talents, 
did not think me worthy of the honour of being his accom- 
pHceP" 

" How, monsieur P ** 

"No, madame; Laurent Blnrosset was not a man for the 
brilliant Parisian adventurer Raymond Marolles to enlist as a 
colleague. No, Laurent Blurosset was merely a philosopher, a 
physiologist, a dreamer, a little bit of a madman, and but a poor 
puppet m the hands of the man of the world, the chevalier of 
fortune, the unscrupulous and designing Englishman." 

"An Englishman P" 

" Yes, madame ; that is one of your husband's secrets : he is 
an Englishman. I was not clever enough to be the accomplice 
of Monsieur Marolles ; in his opinion I was not too clever to 
become his dupe." 

"His dupe?" 

"Yes, madame, his dupe. His contempt for the man of 
science was most supreme : I was a useful automaton — nothing 
more. The chemist, the physiologist, the man whose head had 
grown gray in the pursuit oi an inductive science — whose nights 
and days nad been given to the study of the great laws of cause 
and efiect — ^was a puppet in the hands of the chevalier of fortune, 
and as little likely to fathom his motives as the wooden doll ia 
likely to guess those of the showman who pulls the strings that 
make it dance. So thought Raymond Marolles, the adventurer, 
^e fortune-hunter, the t£ief, the murderer 1 " 

"What, monsieur, you knew him, thenP" 

" To the very bottom of his black heart, madame. Science 
would indeed have been a lie, wisdom would indeed have been a 
chimera, if I could not have read through the low cunning of 
the superficial showy adventurer, as well as I can read the 
words written in yonder book ihrough the thin veil of a foreign 
character. I, Iub dupe, as he thought — ^the learned fool at 
whose labours he laughed, even while he sought to avail himself 
of their help — I laughed at him in turn, read every motive ; but 
let him laugh on, lie on, tiU the time at which it should be my 
pleasure to lift the mask, and say to him — * Raymond Marolles, 



Captain Lansdown overhears a Conversation. 24fl 

cHarlatan! liar! fool! dupe! in the battle between Wisdom and 
Cnnning the gray-eyed goddess is the conqneror.'* 

" What, monsienr P Then yon are doubly a murderer. You 
knew this man, and yet abetted him in the vilest plot by which 
a wretched woman was ever made to destroy the man she loved 
a thousand times better than her worthless self! " 

Laurent Blurosset smiled a most impenetrable smile. 

" I acted for a pu^ose, madame. I wished to test the eifects 
of a new poison. Yours the murder — ^if there was a murder ; 
not mine. Yon asked me for a weapon; I put it into your 
hands ; I did not compel you to use it." 

"No, monsieur; but you prompted me. If there is justice 
on earth, you shall suffer for that act as well afs Monsieur Ma- 
rolles ; if not, there is justice in heaven ! God's punishments • 
are more terrible than those of men, and you have all the more 
cause to tremble, you and the wretch whose accomplice you 
were — whose willing accomplice, by your own admission, you 
were." 

" And yourself, madame P In dragging tui to justice, may 
you not yourself suffer?" 

" Suffer 1** She laughs a hollow bitter peal of mocking 
laughter, riainfal to hear; very painful to the ears of thehstener 
in the shadow, whose face is stiU buried in his hands. " Suffer ! 
No, Monsieur Blurosset, for me on earth there is no more suffer- 
ing. If in hell the wretches doomed to eternal punishment 
suffer as I have suffered for the last eight years, as 1 suffered on 
that winter's night when the man I loved died, then, indeed, 
God is an avenging Deity. Do you think the worst the law can 
inflict upon me for that guilty deed is by one thousandth degree 
equal to>e anguish of my o^ mind, every day and eveiyhourP 
Do you think I fear disgrace P Disgrace ! Bah I What is it P 
There never was but one being on earth whose good opinion 
I valued, or whose bad opinion I feared. That man I murdered. 
You think I fear the world P The world to me was him ; and 
he is dead. If you do not wish to be denmmced as the accom- 
plice of a murderess and her accomplice, dn not let me quit this 
room ; for, by the heaven above me, so surely as I quit this room 
alive I go to deliver you, EaymondMarolles, and myself into the 
hands of justice I" 

" And your son, madame — what of him P " 

" I have made arrangements fer his future happiness, mon- 
sieur. He will return to France, and be placed under the care of 
my uncle." 

For a few moments there is silence. Laurent Uhkrosset seems 
lost in thought. Yalerie sits with her bright hollow eyes fixed 
on the flickering flame of the low fire. Blurosaei ia tJ^^ feii^Vft 
•peak. 



246 The Trail qf the Serpent. 

" You Bay, madame, tliat if I do not Yriah to be given up to 
jostice as the accomplice of a mnrderer, I shall not suffer you 
to leave this room, but sacrifice you to the preservation of my 
own safety. Nothing more easy, madame ; I have only to raise 
my hand — ^to wave a handkerchief, medicated in the manner of 
those the Borgias and Medids used of old, before your face ; to 
scatter a few grains of powder into that fire at your feet ; to 
give you a book to read, a flower to smell; and you do not leave 
this room alive. And this is how I should act, if I were, wbat 
you say I am, the accomplice of a murderer." 

" How, monsieur I — ^you had no part in the murder of my 
husband P — ^you, who gave me the drug which killed him ?" 

" You jump at conclusions, madame. How do 3'ou know that 
the drug which I gave you killed Gaston de Lancy P" 

" Oh, for pity's sake, do not juggle with me. Monsieur. 
Speak ! What do you mean?" 

" Simply this, madame. That the death of your husband on 
the evenmff of the day on which you gave him the drugged wine 
may have been — a comcidence." 

" Oh, monsieur I in mercy—" 

" Nay, madame, it was a coincidence. The drug I gave yon 
was not a poison. You are guiltless of your husband's death." 

" Oh, heaven be praised 1 Merciful heaven be praised !" She 
falls on her knees, and buries her head in her hands in a wild 
burst of tearful thanksgiving. 

While her face is thus hidden, Blurosset takes from a little 
cabinet on one side of the fireplace a handfcd of a light-coloured 
powder, which he throws upon the expiring cinders in the grate. 
A lurid flame blazes up, illuminating the room with a si^tmge 
unnatural glare. 

" Valerie, Countess de Marolles," he says, in a tone of solemn 
earnestness, " men say I am a magician — a sorcerer — a disciple 
of the angel of darkness ! Nay, some more foolish than the rest 
nave been so blasphemous as to declare that I have power to 
raise the dead. Yours is no mind to be fooled by such shallow 
lies as these. The dead never rise again in answer to the will 
of mortal man. IA£t your head, v alerie — ^not Countess de 
Marolles. I no lon^r call you by that name, which is in itself 
a falsehood. Valene de Lancy, look yonder !" 

He points in the direction of the open door. She rises, looks 
towards the tiireshold, staggers a step forward, utters one lovg 
wild shriek, and falls sensdess to the floor. 

In all the agonies she has endured, in all the horrors through 
which she has passed, she has never before lost her senses. Tne 
o^use most indeed be a powerful one. 



ON THE TEACK- 



CHAPTER L 

VATHEB AND 80H, 

Thbeb days have passed since tlie interview of Valerie with 
Lanrent iBlnrosset, and Baymond de Marolles paces up and 
down his study in Park Lane. He is not going to the bank 
to-day. The autonm rains beat in against the double windows 
of the apartment, which is situated at the back of the house, 
looking out upon a small square patch of so-called garden. This 
garden is shut in by a wall, over which a weak-minded and erratic- 
looking creeper sprawls and straggles ; and there is a little green 
door in this wall, which communicates with a mews. 

A hopelessly wet day. Twelve by the clock, aud not enongli 
blue in the gloomy sky to make the smallest article of wearing 
apparel — no, not so much as a pair of wristbands for an un- 
happy seaman. Well to be the Count de Marolles, and to have 
no occasion to extend one's walk beyond the purple-and-crimson 
border of that Turkey carpet on such a day as this ! The 
London sparrows, transformed for the time being into a spe-des 
of water-iowl, flutter di^ally about the small swamp of grass- 
plot, flanked here ameT^there by a superannuated clump of 
withered geraniums which have evidently seen better days. 
The sparrows seem to look enviously at the bright blaze reflected 
on the double windows of the Count's apartment, and would 
like, perhaps, to go in and sit on the hob ; and I dare say they 
twitter to each other, in confidence, "A fine thmg to be the 
Count de MaroUes, with a fortune which it wouM take the 
lifetime of an Old Parr to calculate, and a good fire in wet 
weather/' 

Yet, for all this, Baymond de Marolles does not look the most 
enviable object in creation on this particular rainy morning. 
His pale rair face is paler than ever; there are dark circles 
round the blue eyes, and a nervous and incessant twitching of 
the thin lower lip — signs which never were, and never will- V«k 
indications of a peacerol mind. "Ha \kaA xlc>\» ^sfcKCL^^^cv^ ^ssss«ik 



248 The Trail of the Serpent 

the night on wliicli Monsieur Paul Monc^e, alias Signor Mos< 
quetti, told his story. She has remained secluded in her own 
apartments; and even Bajmond de Marolles has scarce cared 
to break upon the solitude of this woman, in whom grief is so 
near akin to desperation. 

"What will she do, now she knows allP Will she denounce 
me P If she does, 1 am prepared. If Blurosset, poor scientific 
fool, only plays his part faithfully, I am safe. But she will 
hardly reveal the truth. For her son's sake she wiU be silent. 
Oh, strange, inexplicable, and mysterious chance, that this 
fortune for which I have so deeply schemed, for which I have 
hazarded so much and worked so hard, should be my own — my 
own ! — ^this woman a mere usurper, and I the rightful heir to 
the wealth of the De Cevennes! What is to be done? For 
the first time in my life I am at fault. Should I fly to the 
Marquis — tell him I am his son P — difficult to prove, now that 
old hag is dead; and even if I prove it — ^as I would move 
heaven and earth to do — ^what if she denounce me to her imcle, 
and he refuse to acknowledge the adventurer, the poisoner P I 
could soon silence her. But unfortunately she has been behind 
the scenes, and I fear she would scarcely accept a drop of water 
from the hands of her devoted husband. If I had any one to 
help me I But I have no one ; no one that I can trusts-no one 
in my power. Oh, Laurent Blurosset, for some of your mighty 
Becrets, so that the very autumn wind blowing in at her window 
might seal the lips of my beautiful cousin for ever !" 

Pleasant thoughts to be busy with this rainy autumn day ; 
but such thoughts are by no means unfamihar to the heart of 
Baymond de Marolles. 

It is from a reverie such as this that he is aroused by the 
Bound of caiTiage- wheels, and a loud knocking and ringing at 
the hall door. " Too early for morning callers. Who can it be 
at such an hourP Some one from the bank, perhaps P" He 
paces up and down the room rather anxiously, wondering who 
this unexpected visitor might be, when the groom of the 
chambers opens the door and announces, "The Marquis de 
Cevennes !" 

" So, then," mutters Raymond, " she has played her first 
card — she has sent for her uncle. We shall have need of all 
our brains to-day. Now then, to meet my father face to face." 

As he speaks, the Marquis enters. 

Face to face — father aad son. Sixty years of age — fair and 
pale, blue eyes, aquilino nose, and thin Hps. ThSty years of 
age — ^fair and pale, blue eyes, aquiline nose, and thin Hps again; 
and neither of the two mces to be trusted ; not one look of 
truth, not one glance of benevolence, not one noble expression in 
«ither. Truly lather and son — ^all the world over, father and son* 



Father and Son. 249 

** Monsieur le Marquis affords me an unexpected honour and 
pleasure," said Bajmond Marolles, as he aavanced to receive 
nis visitor. 

"Nay, Monsieur de MaroUes, scarcely, I should imagine, 
unexpected; I come in accordance with the earnest request of 
mj niece ; though what that most erratic young lady can want 
with me in this abominable country of your adoption is quit(> 
beyond my poor comprehension." 

ilaymond draws a long breath. " So," he thinks, "he know« 
nothing yet. Good ! You are slow to play your cards, Yalerie. 
I will take the initiative; my leading trump shall commence 
the game." 

"I repeat," said the Marquis, throwing himself into the 
easy-chair which Baymond had wheeled forward, and warming 
his delicate white hands before the blazinff fire; "I repeat, that 
the urgent request of my very lovelj but extremely erratic 
niece, that I should cross the Channel in the autumn of a very 
stormy year — ^I am not a good sailor — ^is quite beyond my com- 
prehension." He wears a very magnificent emerald ring, whicl 
IS too large for the slender third finger of his left hand, and ke 
amuses himself by twisting it round and round, sometimes 
stopping to contemplate the efiect of it with the plain gold 
outside, when it looks like a lady's wedding-ring. "It is, I 
positively assure you," he repeated, looking at the ring, and not 
at Raymond, " utterly beyond the limited powers of my humble 
com prehension." 

Eaymond looks verygrave, and takes two or three turns up 
and down the room. The light-blue eyes of the Marquis follow 
him for a turn and a half— find the occupation monotonous, and 
go back to the riuff and the white hand, always interesting 
objects for contemplation. Presentiy the Count de Marolles 
stops, leans on the easy-chair on the opposite side of the fire- 
place to that on which the Marquis is seated, and says, in a 
very serious tone of voice — 

" Monsieur de Cevennes, I am about to allude to a subject of 
BO truly painful and distressing a nature, both for you to hear 
and for me to speak of, that I sumost fear adverting to it." 

The Marquis has been so deeply interested in the ring, 
emerald outwards, that he has evidently heard the words of 
Raymond without comprehending their meaning ; but he looks 
up reflectively for a moment, recalls them, glances over them 
afresh as it were, nods, and says — 




likely you'll agitate me.' He leaves the ring 
minute or two, and looks over the five nails on his le^ haud^ 
evidently in search of the pioVest *, finda it ^ssl ^^^^ 




250 The Trail of the Serpent. 

and caresses it tenderly, while awaiting Eajmond'H very i>ainfal 
communication. 

" Ton said. Monsieur le Marqnis, that yon were utterly at a 
loss to comprehend my wife's motive in sending for you m this 
abrupt manner?" 

" Utterly. And I assure you I am a bad sailor — ^a very bad 
sailor. When the weather's rough, I am positively compelled 
to — it is really so absurd," he says, with a light clear laugh — 
" I am obliged to — ^to go to the side of the vesseL Both undig- 
nified and disagreeable, I give you my word of honour. But 
you were saying ^" 

" I was about to say, monsieur, that it is my deep grief to 
have to state that the conduct of your niece has been for the 
last few months in every way inexplicable — so much so, that I 
have been led to fear " 

" What, monsieur P" The Marquis folds his white hands one 
over the other on his knee, leaves off the inspection of their 
beauties, and looks full in the face of his niece's husband. 

" I have been led, with what grief I need scarcely say " 

" Oh, no, indeed ; pray reserve the account of your grief — 
your grief must have been so very intense. You have been led 
to fear " 

" That my unhappy wife is out of her mind." 

" Precisely. I thought that was to be the climax. My good 
Monsieur Raymond, Count de Marolles — ^my very worthy Mon- 
sieur Raymond MaroUes — ^my most excellent whoever and 
whatever you may be — do you think that Ren^ Theodore 
Auguste Philippe Le Grange Martel, Marquis de Cevennes, 
is flie sort of man to be twisted round your fingers, however 
clever, unscrupulous, and designing a villain you may beP" 

** Monsieur le Marquis !" 

"I have not the least wish to quarrel with you, my good 
friend. Nay, on the contrary, I will freely confess that I am 
not without a certain amount of respect for you. You are a 
thorough villain. Everything thorough is, in my mind, esti- 
tnable. Virtue is said to lie m the golden mean — ^virtue is not 
in my way; I therefore do not dispute the question — ^but to 
me ail mediums are contemptible. You are, in your way, 
thorough ; and, on the whole, 1 respect you." 

He goes back to the contemplation of his hands and his 
rings, and concentrates all his attention on a cameo head of 
Mark Antony, which he wears on his Httle finger. 

" A villain, Mozisieur le Marquis !" 

" And a clever villain. Monsieur de Marolles — a clever villainE 
Witness your success. Bui you are not quite clever enough to 
iioodwiiik me — ^not quite clever enough to hoodwink any one 
blest with a moderate amount oi \>mnal" 



Father and Son* 251 

•• Monsieur !** 

"Because you liave one fault. Yes, really,** — lie flicks a 
gram of dust out of Mark Antony's eye vdth his Httle finger 
— **yes, you have one fault. Tou are too smooth. Nobody 
ever wobs so estimable as you a(ppea/r to be — ^you over-do it. if 
you remember," continues the Marquis, addressing him in an 
easy, critical, and conversational tone, '* the great merit in that 
Venetian villain in the tragedy of the worOiy but very much 
over-rated person, William Shakspeare, is, that he is not 
smooth. Ol^ello trusts lago, not because he is smooth, but 
because he UnH, * I know this fellow's of exceeding honesty,' 
says the Moor; as much as to say, 'He's a disagreeable beast, 
but I think trustworthy.' Tou are a very clever fellow. Mon- 
sieur Baymond de Marolles, but you would never have got 
Desdemona smothered. Othello would have seen through you 
—as I did!" 

" Monsieur, I will not suffer ** 

•* You will be good enough to allow me to finish what I have 
to say. I dare say I am prosy, but I shall not detain you long. 
I repeat, that though you are a very clever fellow, you would 
never have got the bolster-and-pillow business accomplished, 
because Othello would have seen through you as I did. My 
niece insisted on marrying you. "Why P It was not such a 
very difficult riddle to real, this marriage,, appaxentlv so mys- 
tenons. You« an enterprising person, with a small capital, 
plenty of brains, and white hands quite unfit for rough work, 
natiually are on the look-out for some heiress whom you may 
entrap into marrying you." 

" Monsieur de Cevennes 1 " 

" My dear fellow, I am not quarrelling with you. In your 
position I should have done the same. That is the veiy clue bt 
which I unravel the mystery. I say to myself, what should 1 
have done if fate had oeen so remarkably shabby as to throw 
me into the position of that young man P "Why, naturally I 
should have looked out for some woman fooHsh enough to bo 
decdved by that legitimate and old-established sham — so useful 
to novelists and the melodramatic theatres — called 'Love.' 
Now, my nieoe is not a fool ; ergo, she was not in love with 
you. You had then obtained some species of power over her. 
What that power was I did not ask ; I do not ask now. Enough 
that it was necessary for her, for me, that this marriage shoi^d 
take place. She swore it on the crucifix. I am a Voltairean 
myself, but» poor girl, she derived those sort of ideas from her 
mother; so there was nothing for me but to consent to the 
marriage, and accept a gentleman of doabtfial pedigree." 

** Perhaps not so doubtful." 

** Perhaps not 00 doubtfall 




252 The Trail of the Serpent. 

Toar upper lip, my dear nepliew-in-law. Has papa turned up 
lately P" 

^ " !rerliaps. I think I shall soon be able to lay my band njjon 
him." He lays a light and delicate hand on the Marquis's 
shoulder as he says the words. 

" No doubt ; but if in the meantime yon would kindly refrain 
from laving it on me, you would oblige — -vou would really oblige 
me. Though why," said the Marquis philosophically, address- 
ing himself to Mark Antony, as if he would like to avail himself 
of that Boman's sagacity, " why we should object to a villain 
simply because he is a viflain, I can't imagine. We may object 
to mm if he is coarse, or dirty, or puts his knife in his mouth, 
or takes soup twice, or wears ill-made coats, because those things 
annoy U8 ; but, object to him because he is a liar, or a hypocrite, 
or a coward ? Perfectly absurd ! I say, therefore, I consented 
to the marriage, asked no uimecessary or ill-bred questions, and 
resigned myself to the force of circumstances; and for some 
years affairs appeared to go on very smoothly, when suddenly I 
am startled by a most alarming letter from my niece. She 
implores me to come to England. She is alone, without a 
friend, an adviser, and she is determined to reveal all." 

"To reveal all!" Raymond cannot repress a start. The 
sangfroid of the Marquis had entirely deceived him whose chief 
weapon was that very sangfroid. 

" xes. What then P You, being aware of this letter having 
been written — or, say, guessing that such a letter would be 
written — determine on your course. You will throw over your 
wife's evidence by declaring her to be mad. Eh P This is what 
you determine upon, isn't it P" It appears so good a joke to the 
Marquis, that he laughs and nods at Mark Antony, as if he 
would really like that respectable Roman to participate in the fun. 

For the first time in his life Raymond Marolles has found 
his match. In the hands of this man he is utterly powerless. 

" An excellent idea. Only, as I said before, too obvious — too 
transparently obvious. It is the only thing you can do. If I 
were looking for a man, and came to a part of the country 
where there was but one road, I should of course know that he 
must — ^if he went anywhere — go down that road. So with you, 
my dear Marolles, there was but one resource left you — ^to dis« 
prove the revelations of your wife by declaring them the halluci- 
nations of a maniac. 1 take no credit to myself for seeing 
through you, I assure you. There is no talent whatever in 
finding out that two and two make four; the genius would be 
the man who made them into five. I do not thmk I have any« 
thing more to say. I have no wish to attack you, my dear 
nephew-in-law. I merely wanted to prove to you that I waa 
not your dupe. I think you must be by this time sufiScimtly 



Father and Son, 253 

convinced of tliat fact. If yon have any good Madeira in yoni 
cellars, I should like a glass or two, and flie wing of a chicken, 
before I hear what my niece may have to say to me. I made a 
very poor breakfast some hours ago at the Lord Warden." 
Having expressed himself thus, the Marquis throws himself 
back in his easy-chair, yawns once or twice, and polishes Mark 
Antony with the comer of his handkerchief; he has evidently 
entirely dismissed the subject on which he has been speaking, 
and is ready for pleasant conversation. 

At this moment the door is thrown open, and Yaleiie enters 
the room. 

It is the ftrst time Eaymond has seen Yalerie since the night 
of Mosquetti's story, and as his eyes meet hers he starts invo- 
luntarily. 

What is itP — ^this change, this transformation, which has 
taken eight years off the age of this woman, and restored her 
as she was on that night when he first saw her at the Opera 
House in Paris. What is it? So ^eat and marvellous an 
alteration, he might almost doubt if tms indeed were she. And 
yet he can scarcely define the change. It seems a transforma- 
tion, not of the face, but of the soul. A new soul looking out 
of the old beauty. A new soul ? No, the old soul, which he 
thought dead. It is indeed a resurrection of the dead. 

Sho advances to her uncle, who embraces her with a graceful 
and drawingroom species of tenderness, about as like real 
t(3ndemess as ormolu is like rough AustraHan gold — as Lawrence 
Sterne's sentiment is like Oliver Goldsmith's pathos. 

" My dear uncle ! You received my letter, then P" 

"Yes, dear child. And what, in Heaven's name, can you 
have to tell me that would not admit of being delayed until the 
weather changed P — and I am such a bad sailor," he repeats 
plaintively. " What can you have to tell me P" 

"Nothing yet, my dear tmcle'* — the bright dark eyes look 
with a steady gaze at Raymond as she speaks — "notmng yet; 
the hour has not yet come." 

" For mercy's sake, my dear girV' says the Marquis, in a tone 
of horror, " don't be melodramatic. If you're going to act a 
Porte- St.-Martin drama, in thirteen acts and twenty-sbc tab- 
leaux, I'll go back to Paris. If you've nothing to say to me, 
why, in the name of all that's feminine, did you send for me P" 

" When I wrote to you, I told you that I appealed to you 
because I had no other friend upon earth to whom, in the houf 
of my anguish, I could turn for help and advice." 

" You did, you did. If you had not been my only brother's 
only child, I should have waited a change ia the wind before I 
ctrossed the Channel — ^I am such a wretched sailor ! But U&k 
AS the religious parlj aMM|||^U|kBa|^«a/cn&^-A. ^<d;s^Oii^ 



H) 



254 The Trcdc of the Serpent. 

** Suppose that, since writing that letter, I have formd a friend, 
an adviser, a guiding hand and a supporting arm, and no longer 
need the help of any one on earth besides this new-found friend 
to revenge me upon my enemies P" 

J Raymond's bewilderment increases every moment. Has she 

\ indeed gone mad, and is this new light in her eyes the fire oi 

■' insanity P 

" I am sure, my dear Yalerie, if yon have met with such a 
very delightfal person, I am extremely ^lad to hear it, as it 
relieves me from the trouble. It is melooramatic certainly, but 
excessively convenient. I have remarked, that in melodrama 

^' circumstaiices generally are convenient. I never alarm myself 

when everything is hopelessly wrong, and villany deliciously 
triumphant ; for I know that somebody who died in the first act 
will come in at the centre doors, and make it all right before the 
curtain falls." 

'' Since Madame de Marolles will no doubt wish to be alone 
with her uncle, I may perhaps be permitted to go into the City 
till dinner, when I shaU have the honour of meeting Monsieur 

Ile Marquis, I trust." 
' " Certainly, my good De Marolles ; your chef, I believe, under- 

( stands his profession. I shall have great pleasure in dining with 

f you. Au revoi/r, mon enfcmt ; we snail go upon velvet, now we so 

thoroughly understand each other." He waves his white left hand 
to Raymond, as a gracefal dismissal, and turns towards his niece. 
"Adieu, madam e," says the Count, as he passes his wife; 
then, in a lower tone, adds, " I do not ask you to be silent for 
iny sake or your own; I merely recommend you to remember 
that you have a son, and that you will do well not to make me 
your enemy. When I strike, I strike home, and my policy has 
always been to strike in the weakest place. Do not forget poor 
little Cherubino !" He looks at her steadily with his cruel blue 
^ eyes, and then turns to leave the room. 

**" As he opens the door, he almost knocks down an elderly gentle- 

man dressed in a suit of clerical-looking black and a white neck- 
cloth, and carrying an unpleasantly damp umbrella under his arm. 
"Not yet, Mr. Jabez North, says the gentleman, who is 
neither more nor less than that respectable preceptor and guide 
to the youthfol mind. Dr. Tappenden, of Slopperton — " not 
yet, Mr. North ; I think your clerks in Lombard Street will be 
compelled to do without you to-day. You are wanted elsewhere 
at present." 

Anything but this — anything but this, and he would have 
borne it, like — ^like himselt ! Thank Heaven there is no com- 
parison for such as he. He was prepared for all but this. This 
early period of his life, which he thought blotted out and for- 
gotten — this hs is unprepared for; and he falls back with a 



!, 



Father and Son. 255 

ghastlj face, and white lips that refase to shape even o£ie excla- 
mation of horror or surprise. 

'•What is thisP" mnrmnrsthe Marqnis. •'North — Jabez — 
Jabez North P. Oh, I see, we have come npon the pre-Parisian 
formation, and that," he glances towards Dr. Tappenden, "is 
one of the vestiges." 

At last Bajmond's tremnlons lips consent to form the words 
he struggles to ntter. 

" Yon are under some mistake, sir, whoever you may be. My 
name is not North, and I have not the honour of your acquaint* 
ance. I am a Frenchman ; my name is De Marolles. I am not 
the person you seek." 

A gentleman advances from the doorway — (there is qmte a 
group of people in the haU) — and says — 

** At least, sir, you are the person who presented, eight years 
ago, three forged cheques at my bank. I am ready, as well as 
two of my clerks, to swear to your identitv. We have people 
here with a warrant to arrest you for that forgery." 

The forgery, not the murder P — ^no one knows of that, then — 
that, at least, is buried in oblivion. 

"There are two or three little things out against you, Mr. 
North," said the doctor ; " but the forgery will serve our purpose 
very well for the present. It's the easiest charge to bring home 
as yet." 

"What do they mean P What other charges P Come what 
may, he will be firm to the last — ^to the last ne will be himself. 
After all, it is but death they can threaten him with : and the 
best people have to die, as well as the worst. 

"Only death, at most!" he mutters. "Courage, Eaymond, 
and finish the game as a good player should, without throwing 
away a trick, even though beaten by better cards." 

" I tell you, gentlemen, I know nothing of your forgeiy, or yon 
either. I am a Frenchman, bom at Bordeaux, and never in yotur 
very eccentric country before ; and indeed, if this is the sort of 
thing a gentleman is liable to in his own study, I shall certainly, 
when I once return to France, never visit your shores a^ain." 

" When you do return to France, I thiiuc it very unlikely yon 
will ever revisit England, as you say, sir. If, as you affirm, you 
arc indeed a Frenchman — (what excellent Engbsh you spealr, 
monsieur, and what trouble you must have taken to acquire so 
perfect an accent!) — ^you will, of course, have no difficulty in 
proving the fact; also that you were not in England eight 
years ago, and consequently were not for some years assistant in 
the academy of this gentleman at Slopperton. All this an 
enlightened British jury will have mudi pleasure in hearing. 
We have not, however, eama tot ter j oOf bnt to arrest you 
Johnson, caU a ca^ C9rtlwfiM|MHBBiB0il I£^^^^^^^<^^%^ 




I 



I 



256 The Trail of the Serpent. 

monsienr, jon will have a magnificent case of false impxison* 
ment, and I congratulate you on the immense damages which 
you will most likely obtain. Thomson, the handcuffs! I must 
trouble you for your wrists. Monsieur de Marolles." 

The police officer politely awaits the pleasure of his prisoner. 
Raymond pauses for a moment; thinks deeply, with his head 
bent on his breast ; lifts it suddenly with a glitter in his eyes, 
and his thin lips set firm as iron. He has arranged his game. 

"As you say, sir, I shall have^ excellent case of false impri- 
sonment, and my accusers shall pay for their insolence, as well 
as for their mistake. In the meantime, I am ready to follow 
you ; but, before I do so, I wish to have a moment's conversa- 
tion with this gentleman, the uncle of my wife. You have, I 
suppose, no objection to leaving me alone with him for a few 
minutes. You can watch outside in the hall; I shall not 
attempt to escape; We have, unfortunately, no trap-doors in 
this room, and I believe they do not build the houses in Park 
Lane with such conveniences attached to them as sliding panels 
or secret staircases." 

" Perhaps not, sir," replies the inflexible police officer ; " but 
they do, I perceive, build them with gardens " — ^he walks to the 
window, and looks out — " a wall eight feet high — door leading 
into mews. Not by any means such a venr inconvenient house, 
Monsieur de Marolles. Thomson, one of the servants wHl be 
so good as to show you the way into the garden below these 
windows, where you will amuse yourself till this gentleman has 
done talking with his uncle." 

" One moment — one moment," says the Marquis, who, during 
the foregoing conversation has been entirely absorbed in the 
endeavour to extract a very obstinate speck of dust from Mark 
Antony's nostril. " One moment, I beg " — as the officer is 
about to withdraw — " why an interview ? Why a police person 
in the garden — if vou call that dreadful stone dungeon with the 
roof off a garden r I have nothing to say to this gentleman. 
Positively nothing. All I ever had to say to him I said ten 
minutes ago. We perfectly understand each other. He can 
have nothmg to say to me, or I to him; and really, I think, 
under the circumstances, the very best thing you can do is to 
put on that unbecoTning iron machinery — I never saw a thing of 
the kind before, and, as a novelty, it is actually quite interest- 
ing" — (he touches the handcuffs that are lying on the table with 
toe extreme tip of his taper third finger, hast'ly withdrawing it 
as if he thought they would bite) — " and to take him away 
immediately. If he has committed a forgery, you know," he 
adds, deprecatingly, " he is not the sort of thing one likes to see 
about one. He really is not." 
Eaymond de MaroUeB neyer li&^ i^thaps, too muoh of thai 



Father and Son. 257 

absurd weakness called love for one's fellow-creatures; bat if 
ever he hated any man with the blackest and bitterest hate of his 
black and bitter heart, so did he hate the man standing now before 
Jiiu . twisting a ring ronnd and ronnd his delicate finger, and look- 
ing^ as entirely at his ease as if no point were in discussion of 
more -importance than the wet weather and the cold autumn day, 

" Stay, Monsieur lo Marquis de Cevennes," he said, in a tone 
of suppressed passion, " you are too hasty in your conclusions 
You have notliing to say to me. Granted ! But I may have 
something to say to you — and I have a great deal to say to you, 
vhich must be said ; if not in private, tiien in public — if not \>j 
word cf mouth, 1 will print it in the public journals, till Paris 
and London shall ring with the sound of it on the lips of other 
men. You will scarcely care for this alternative, Monsieur de 
Cevennes, when you loam what it is I have to say. Your scmg 
froid does you credit, monsieur; especially when, just now, 
though you could not repress a start of surprise at hearing that 
gentleman," he indicates Dr. Tappenden with a wave of his 
hand, " speak of a certain manufacturing town called Slopper- 
ton, you so rapidly regained your composure that only so close 
an observer as myself would have perceived your momentary 
agitation. You appear entirely to ignore, monsieur, the exist 
ence of a certain aristocratic emigrant's son, who thirty years 
ago taught French and mathematics in that very town of Slop- 
perton. Nevertheless, there was such a j>erson, and you knew 
tdm — although he was content to teach his native language for 
a shilling a lesson, and had at that period no cameo or emerald 
rings to twist round his fingers." 

It the Marquis was ever to be admired in the whole course of 
his career, he was to be admired at this moment. He smiled 
a gentle and deprecating smile, and said, in his poUtcst tone — 

" Pardon me, he had eighteenpence a lesson — eighteenpence, 
I assure you ; and he was often mvited to dinner at the houses 
where he taught. The women adored him — they are so simple, 
poor things. He might have married a manufacturer's daughter, 
with an immense fortune, thick ancles, and erratic h's." 

" But he did not marry any one so distinguished. Monsieur 
de Cevennes, I see you understand me. I do not ask you to 
grant me this interview in the name of justice or humanity, 
Because I do not wish to address von in a language which is a 
foreign one to me, and which you do not even comprehend ; but 
in tne name of that young Frenchman of noble family, who 
was Bo^very weak and foohsh, so entirely false to himself and 
to his own principles, as to marry a woman because he loved, or 
fancied that he loved her, I say to you, Monsieur le Marquis, 
''ou will find it to your interest to hear what I have to reveal." 

The ^larquis shrugs his shouldieare eilipJiU^. ** ^^o^^^'^safc? 



, ■ ' I 



258 The Trail of tie Serpent. 

he sajs. " Gentlemen, be good enoagH to remain ontside that 
door. My dear Valerie, you had better retire to yonr own 
apartments. My poor child, all this must be so extremely 
w^irisome to you-almost as bad as the third volnme of b 
fJEishionable noveh Monsieur de Marolles, I am prex>ared to heai 
what you xnay have to say — ^though " — ^he here addresses himself 
generally — "I beg to protest against this affair from first to last 
— ^I repeat* from first to last — ^it is so intolerably melodramatio.*' 



OHAPTEEIL 

KATMOND DB XABOLLES SHOWS HDCSEIV BETTEB THAV ALL 

BOW STKBET. 

** Ai7D SO, Monsieur de Marolles," said the Marquis, as Raymond 
dosed the door on the group in the hall, and the two gentlemeo 
were left entirely alone, " and so you have — ^by what means I 
ihall certainly not so far inconvemence mvself as to endea^om 

i ' to guess — contrived to become informed of some of the antece- 

'' ! i dents of your very humble servant P" 

: ' ; "Of some of the antecedents — why not say of all the antece- 

I ■ dents, Monsieur de Cevennes P" 

j , " Just as you Hke, my dear youn^ friend," replies the Marquis 

He really seems to get quite afiectionate to Raymond, but m a 
far-off, patronizing, and superb manner something lihat of a 
gentlemanly Mephistopheles to a promising Doctor Faustus ; — 
** and having possessed yourself of this iniorrraticn, may I asic 
what use you intend making of itP In thib utilitarian age 
everything is put to a use, sooner or later. Do you purpose 
writing my biography P It will not be interesting. Not as yon 
would have to write ib to-day. Alas I we are not so fortunate 
as to Hve under the Regency, and there are not many interesting 
biographies nowadajrs. 

** My dear Marquis, I really have no time to Hsten to what J 
have no doubt, amongst your own particular friends, is coa- 
sidered most brilliant wit ; I have two or three things to say tc 
you that must be said ; and the sort of people who are now 
waiting outside the door are apt to be impatient." 

" Ah, you are experienced ; you know their manners and 
customs I And they are impatient," murmured the MarquiS; 
thoughtfully ; " and they put you in stone places as if you wen 
coal, and behind bars as if you were zoological; and tnen they 
hang you. They call you up at an absurd hour in the morning 
and they take you out into a high place, and drop you dowi 
through a hole as if you were a penny put into a savings box; anc 
other people get up at an equally absurd hour of the morning 
or stay up all night, in order to see it done. And yet there an 

^ peraons who declare th«^ tho age of romance has parsed away." 



Saymond de Marolles leatu Bow Street. 269 

** Monsieur de Oevennes, that which I have to say to yon 
relates to your marriage." 

" My marriage. Suppose I say that I never was married, my 
amiable friend?" 

" I shall then reply, monsieur, that I not only am informed 
of all the circumstMices of your marriage, but what is more, I 
am possessed of a proof of that marriage." 

" Supposing there was such a marriage, which I am prepared 
to deny, there could only be two proofs — ^the witnesses and the 
certificate." 

" The witnesses, monsieur, are dead," said Raymond. 

"Then that would reduce the possible proofs to one — ^the 
certificate." 

"Nay, monsieur, there might be another evidence of the 
marriage." 

" And that would be P" 

"The issue of it. You had two sons by that marriage^ 
monsieur. One of those sons died eight years ago." 

"And the other ?" asked the Marquis. 

" Still lives. I shall have something to say about him by-and« 
by." 

" It is a subject in which I take no sort of interest," said the 
Marquis, throwing himself back into his chair, and abandoning 
himself once more to Marc Antony. " I may have been married, 
or I may not have been married — ^it is not worth my while to 
deny that fact to you; because if I confess it to you, I can of 
course deny it the moment I cross the threshold of that door — I 
may have sons, or I may not have sons ; in either case, I have 
no wish to hear of them, and anything you may have to say 
about them is, it appears to me, c[uite irrelevant to the matter 
in hand ; which merely is your going to prison for forgery, or 
your not going to prison for forgery. But what I most earnestly 
recommend, my very dear young friend, is, that you take the^ 
cab and handcuffs quietly, and go ! That will, at least, put an 
end to f ass and discussion ; and oh, what an inexpressible relief 
there is in that! I always envy Noah, floundering about ir 
that big boat of his : no new books ; no houses of parliament ; 
no poor relations ; no Times newspaper ; and no taxes — * univer- 
sal as you were,' as Mr. Carlyle says ; plenty to eat, and every- 
thing come to an end; and that foolish Noah must needs send 
out the dove, and begin it all over again. Yes, he began it all 
over again, that preposterous Noah. Whereby, cab, handcuffs, 
£i>rgery, long conversation, and poHce persons outside that door ; 
all of which might have been prevented if Noah had kept the 
dove indoors, and had been miselfish enough to bore a hole in 
the bottom of his boaii*^ - *■■« - 

••If ycm wmiifl»l94MiliifliiidbVAXCs^ 



260 - The Trail of ihd Serpent. 

philosopliical reflectioiis for a more convenient season, fherd will 
be some chance of our coming to an understanding. Ono of 
these twin sons still lives." 

"Now, reallv, that is the old ground again. We are not 
getting on 

" Still lives, I say. Whatever he is, Monsieur de Cevennes— 
whatever his chequered life may have been, the guilt and tht 
misery of that life rest alike on your head." 

The Marquis gives the head alluded to an almost imperceptible 
jerk, as if he threw this moral burden off, and looks relieved b 
the proceeding. " Don't be melodramatic," he remarks, mildly 
"this is not the Porte- St. -Martin, and there are no citizens in 
the gallery to applaud." 

"That guilt and that misery, I say, rest upon your head. 
When you married the woman whom you abandoned to starva- 
tion and despair, you loved her, I suppose?" 

" I dare say I did ; I have no doubt I told her so, poor Httle 
thing!" 

" And a few months after your marriage you wearied of her, 
as you would have done of any other plaything." 

" As I should have done oi any other pla3rthiBg. Poor dear 
child, she was dreadfully wearisome. Her relations too. Heawn 
and earth, what relations ! They were looked upon in the light 
of human beings at Slopperton : but they were wise to keep out 
of Paris, for they'd have been most decidedly put into the Jardin 
des Plantes; and, really," said the Marquis, thoughtfully, 
** behind bars, and aggravated by fallacious offers of buns from 
small children, they would have been rather amusing." 

" You were quite content that this unhappy girl should share 
/our poverty. Monsieur le Marquis; but m the hour of your 
good fortune " 

"I left her. Decidedly. Look you. Monsieur de Marolles, 
when I married that young person, whom you insist on dragg:ing 
out of her grave — poor gin, she is dead, no doubt, by this time 
— ^in this remarkably melodramatic manner, I was a young 
man, without a penny in the world, and with very slight expec- 
tations of ever becoming possessed of one. I am figurative, of 
course. I believe men of my temperament and complexion are 
not very subject to that popular epidemic, called love. But as 
much as it was in my power to love any one, I loved this httlo 
factory girl. I used to meet her going backwards and forwards 
to her work, as I went backwards and forwards to mine ; and 
we became acquainted. She was gentle, innocent, pretty.^ I 
was very young, and, I need scarcely say, extremely stupid; 
and I married her. We had not been married six months before 
that dreadful Corsicau person took it into his head to abdicate^ 
and I was summoned 'bafik \o 'Frosice. to make my appearand 



Raymond de MaroUes heats Bow Street, 261 

ttfc the Tuileries as Marquis de Cevennes. Now, what I have to 
say is this : if yon wish to quarrel with any one, quarrel with 
the Corsican person ; for if he had never signed his abdication 
at Fontainebleau (which he did, by the bye, in a most melo- 
dramatic manner — I am acquainted with some weak-minded 
people who cannot read the description of that event without 
shedding tears), I should never have deserted my poor little 
English wife." 

** The Marquis de Cevennes could not, then, ratify the mar- 
riage of the obscure teacher of French and mathematics?" 
asked Raymond. 

" If the Marquis de Cevennes had been a rich man, he might 
have done so; but the Restoration, which gave me back my 
title, and the only chateau (my ancestors had three) which thf 
Jacobins had not burned to the ground, did not restore me the 
fortune which the Revolution had devoured. I was a poor man. 
Only one course was open to me — a rich marriage. The wealth j 
widow of a Buonapartist general beheld and admired your 
humble servant, and the doom of my poor little wife was sealed. 
For many years I sent money regularly to her old mother — an 
awful woman, who knew my secret. She had, therefore, nd 
occasion to starve. Monsieur de Marolles. And now, may I be 
permitted to ask what interest you have in this affair, that you 
should insist on recalling these very disagreeable circumstances 
at this pai-ticular moment?" 

*• There is one question you do not ask. Monsieur le Marquis.'* 

•* Indeed ; and what is that ? " asked the Marquis. 

" You seem to have very little curiosity about the fate of youi 



surviving son." 



I seem to have yeiy little curiosity, my young friend ; I hav% 
very little curiosity. I dare say he is a very worthy individual ; 
but I have no anxiety whatever about his fate ; for if he at all 
resembles his father, there is very little doubt that he has taken 
every care of himself. The De Cevennes have always taken 
care of themselves ; it is a family trait." 

** He has proved himself worthy of that family, then. He 
was thrown into a river, but he did not sink ; he was put into a 
workhouse and brought up as a pauper, but by the force of his 
own will and the help of his own brain he extricated himself, 
and won his way in the world. He became, what his father was 
before him, a teacher in a school. He grew tired of that, as his 
father did, and left England for Paris. In Paris, like his father 
before him, he married a woman he did not love for the sake of 
her fortune. He became master of that fortune, and till this 
very day he has surmounted every obstacle and triumphed over 
every difficulty. Your only son, Monsieur de Cevennes — ^tha 
fpn whose ipother you deierted— the ««axv^VQxa.^dTX ^"ksv^^sw?^ 



f: 



•t 



il 



1 . 






2G2 The Trail of the Serpent. 



to staire, steal, drown, or Iiang, to beg in the streets, die in ik 
gutter, a workhouse, or a prison — ^has lived through all, to stana 
face to face with you this day, and to tell you that for his own 
and for his mother's wrongs, with all the strength of a soul 
Ij which those wrongs have steeped in wickedness — he hates youT' 

i " Don't be violent," said the Marquis, gently. " So, you are 

my son P Upon my word I thought all along you were some- 
tmng of that kind, for you are such a conwummate villain." 

For the first time in his life Raymond de Marolles feels what 
it is to be beaten by his own weapons. Against the sang froid 
of the Marquis the torrent of his passionate words dashes, as the 
eea dashes at the foot of a rock, and makes as little impression. 

"And what thenP" says the Marquis. "Since it appears 
you are my son, what then P" 

" You must save me, monsieur," said Eaymond, in a hoarse 
voice. 

"Save you P But, my worthy friend, how save youP Save 
you from the cab and handcuffs P If I go out to those people 
and say, 'He is my son; be so good as to forego the cab and 
handcuffs,' they will laugh at me. They are so dreadfully 
matter-of-fact, that sort of people. What is to be doneP" 

Only this, monsieur. I must make my escape from this 
apartment. That window looks into the garden, £rom the 
garden to the mews, through the mews into a retired street, and 
thence— •• 

" Never mind that, if you get there. I reallv doubt the pos- 
sibility of your getting there. There is a policeman watching 
in that garden." 

Eaymond smiles. He is recovering his presence of mind in 
the necessity for action. He opens a drawer in the Kbrary table 
and takes out an air-pistol, which looks rather like some elegant 
toy than a deadly weapon. 

" I must shoot that man," he says. 

"Then I give the alarm. I will not be implicated in a 
murder. Good Heavens ! the Marquis de Gevennes implicated 
in a murder ! Why, it would be talked of in Paris for a month.'* 

"There will be no murder, monsieur. I shall fire at that 
man from this window and hit him in the knee. He will fall, 
and most likely faint from the pain, and will not, therefore 
know whether I pass through the garden or not. You will give 
the alarm, and tell the men without that I have escaped through 
this window and the door in the wall yonder. They will pursue 
me in that direction, while I " 

"You will do what P" 

" Go out at the front door as a gentleman should. I was not 

nnprepared for such an event as tms. Every room in this house 

409 » $ecrQt powmunication wil\x t\\e xxext room. There is only 



11 ' il- t€ 

1 I > ■■; 

!■! 
1 

I ■ 

j,'!. 

i': 

• ■» 

I • 

I 



Tie Lefl'Tianded Smasher maJces his Mark. 2G3 

oii« door in this libraiy, as it seems, and they are carefully 
watching that." 

As he speaks he softly opens the window and fires at the 
man in the garden, who falls, only nttering a groan. As 
Baymond premcted, he faints with the pain. 

With the rapidity of lightning he flings the window up 
violently, hurls the pistol to the farthest extremity of the garden, 
snatches the Marquis's hat from the chair on which it lies, 
presses one finger on the gilded back of a volume of Gibbon's 
Uome, a narrow slip of the bookcase opens inwards, and reveals 
a door leading into the next apartment, which is the dining- 
room. This door is made on a peculiar principle, and, as he 
pushes through, it closes behind him. 

This is the work of a second; and as the officers, alarmed by 
the sound of the opening of the window, rush into the room, the 
Marquis gives the alarm. "He has escaped by the window!" 
he said. ** He has wounded your assistant, and passed through 
that door. He cannot be twenty yards in advance ; you vnll 
easily know him by his having no hat on." 

"Stop !" cries the detective officer, " this may be a trap. He 
may have got round to the front door. Go and watch, Johnson." 

A Httie too late this precaution. As the officers rushed into 
the library, Raymond passed from the dining-room door out of 
the open street-door, and jumped into the very cab which was 
waiting to take him to prison. " Five poxmds, if you catch the 
Liverpool Express," he said to the cabman. 

" All right, sir," repHed that worthy citizen, with a wink. 
" I've druv a many gents like you, and very good fares they is 
too, and a godsend to a ha^- working man, wmt old ladies with 
hand-bags and umbrellas grudges eighteencea mileto," mutters 
the charioteer, as he gaUops down Upper Brook Street and 
across Hanover Square, while the gentlemen of the police force, 
aided by Dr. Tappenden and the obliging Marquis, search the 
mews and neighbourhood adjoining. Strange to say, they 
cannot obtain any information from the coa<;hman and stable- 
boys concerning a gentleman without a hat, who must baft 
passed through the mews about three minutes before. 

CHAPTER in. 

THE LEFT-HANDED SMASHES, MAKES HIS MARK. 

" It is a palpable and humiliating proof of the decadence of the 



glories of white-cliffed Albion and her lion-hearted children," 
said the sporting correspondent of the lA/verpool Bold Speaker 
and Tlireepemvy Aristides — a gentleman who, by the bye, was 
very clever at naming — ^for half-a-dozen stamps — ^the horses 
that didn't win; and was, indeed, ua^WL V> i-ajao^ \i^N5yst^> 



^64 Tlie Trail of tie Serpent. 

affording accnrate information what to avoid; nothing being 
better policy than to give the odds against any horse named by 
him as a sure winner, or a safe second : for those gallant steeds 
were sure to be, whatever the fluctuating fortune of the race^ 
ignominiously nowhere. " It is," continued the Liverpool B, 8., 
" a sign of the downfalling of the lion and unicorn — over which 
Britannia may shed tears and the inhabitants of Liverpool and 
its vicinity mourn in silent despair — ^that the freedom of England 
is no more! We repeat {The Liverpool Aristidea here gets 
excited, and goes into small capitals)- — Bkitain is no longer 
Yblee I Her freedom departed from her on that day on which 
the blue-coated British Sbirri of Sir Eobert Peel broke simul- 
taneously into the liberties of the nation, the mightiest clauses 
of Magna Charta, and the Prize Ring, and stopped the opera- 
tions of the Lancashire Daddy Longlegs and the celebrated 
Metropolitan favourite, the Left-handed Smasher, during the 
eighty-ninth round, and just as the real interest of the fight 
was about to begin. Under these humiliating circumstances, 
u meeting has been held by the referees and backers of the men, 
and it has been agreed between the latter and the stakeholder to 
draw the money. But, that the valiant and admired Smashei 
may have no occasion to complain of the inhospitahty of the 
town of Liverpool, the patrons of the fancy have determined on 
giving him a dinner, at which his late opponent, our old favourite 
and honoured townsman, Daddy Longlegs, will be in the chair, 
having a distinguished gentleman of sporting celebrity as his 
vice. It is to be hoped that, as some proof that the noble art of 
self-defence is not entirely eictinct in Liverpool, the friends of 
the Ring will muster pretty strong qn this occasion. Tickets, 
at half-a-guinea, to be obtamed at the Gloves Tavern, where the 
entertainment will take place." 

On the very day «n which the Count de Marolles left his 
establishment in Park Lane in so very abrupt a manner, the 
tributary banquiet to the genius of the Ring, in the person of 
the Left-handed Smasher, came off in excellent style at the 
above-mentioned Gloves Tavern — a small hostelry, next door to 
one of the Liverpool minor theatres, and chiefly supported b^ 
the members of the Thespian and pugilistic arts. The dramatic 
element, perhaps, rather predommated in the small parlour 
behind the bar, where Brandolph of the Burning Brand — after 
fighting sixteen terrific broadsword combats, and being left for 
dead behind the first grooves seven times in the course of three 
lets — ^would take his Welsh rarebit and his pint of half-and-half 
in company with the Lancashire Grinder and the Pottery Pet, 
Mid listen with due solemnity to the discourse of these two 
popular characters. ^ The httle parlour was so thickly hung with 
portraits of theatrical and sxyotUftft wle.^x\t\ea^ that (jSdipqa 



The Zefi'handed Smasher maJces his Marh 2G5 



V 



himself — distinguisbed as he is for having guessed the dullest of 
conundrums — could never have discovered the pattern of the 
paper which adorned the walls. Here, Mr. Montmorency, the 
celebrate*! comedian, smirked — ^with that mild smirk only known 
in portraits — over the ample shoulders of his very much better 
half, at the Pet in fighting attitude. There, Mr. Marmaduke 
Montressor, the great tragedian, frowned, in the character of 
Eichard the Third, at Pyrrhus the First, winner of the last 
Derby. Here, again^ Mademoiselle Pasdebasque pointed her 
satin slipper side by side with the youthful Cnalloner of that 
day; and opi>o?ite Mademoiselle Pasdebasque, a gentleman in 
scarlet, whose name is unknown, tumbled off a burnt-sienna 
horse, in excellent condition, and a very high state of varnish, 
into a Prussian-blue ditch, thereby filling the spectator with 
apprehension lest he should be, not drowned, but dyed. As to 
Brandolph of the Brand, there were so many pictures of him, 
in so many different attitudes, and he was always looking so 
very handsome and doing something so very magnaninious, that 
perhaps, upon the whole, it was rather a disappointment to 
l.uk from the pictures down to the original oi them in the 
icjigj costume of private life, seated at the shiny little mahogany 
table, partaking of refreshment. 

The theatrical profession mustered pretty strongly to do 
honour to the sister art on this particular occasion. The theatre 
next door to the Gloves happened, fortunately, to be closed, on 
account of the extensive scale of preparations for a grand dra- 
matic and spectacular performance, entitled, "The Sikh Vic- 
tories ; or. The Tyrant of the Ganges,** which was to be brought 
out the ensuing Monday, with even more than usual magnifi- 
cence. So the votaries of Thespis were free to testify their ad- 
miration for the noble science of self-defence, by taking tickets 
for the dinner at ten-and-sixpence a-piece, the banquet being, as 
Mr. Montressor, the comedian above-mentioned, remarked, with 
more energy than elegance, a cheap blow-out, as the dinner would 
last the guests who partook of it two days, and the indigestion 
attendant thereon would carry them through the rest of the week. 

I shall not enter into the details of the pugilistic dinner, but 
will introduce the reader into the banquet-hall at rather a late 
stage in the proceedings ; in point of fact, just as the festival is 
about to break up. It is two o*clock in the morning ; the table 
is strewn with the debris of a dessert, in which figs, almonds 
and raisins, mixed biscuits, grape-stalks, and apple and orange- 
peel seem rather to predominate. The table is a very field of 
Uressy or "Waterloo, as to dead men in the way of empty bottles; 
good execution having evidently been done upon Mr. Heramar*n 
well-stocked ceUar. From the tumblers and spoons before Qa.c\v 
ifuest, bowevor, it is a^o evi(3^ent ycva\, \\v& ^'i%^ic^Si *CK;^\v!i\>s» 



2G0 The Trail of the Serpent. 

followed the example of Mr. Sala's renowned hero, and aftef 
having tried a "variety of foreign drains," has gone back to 
gin-and- water j)i*r et simple. It is rather a peculiar and para^ 
doxical quality of neat wines that they have, if anything, rather 
an untidy effect on those who drink them : certainly there is a 
looseness about the hair, a thickness and indecision in the 
speech, and an erratic and irrelevant energy and emphasis in the 
gestures of the friends of the Smasher, which is entirely at 
variance with our ordinary idea of the word " neat." Yet, why 
should we quarrel with them on that account P They are harac* 
less, and they are happy. It is surely no crime to see two gojs- 
burners where, to the normal eye, there is only one ; neither is 
it criminal to try five distinct tiines to enunciate the two words, 
" slightest misunderstanding," and to fail ignominionslv every 
time. If anything, that must be an amiable feeling wnich in- 
spires a person with a sudden wild and almost pathetic friend- 
siiip for a man he never saw before ; such a friendship, in short, 
as pants to go to the block for him, or to become his surety to a 
loan-office for five pounds. Is it any such terrible offence against 
society to begin a speech of a patriotic nature, fall of allusions 
to Jonn Bull, Queen Victoria, Wooden Walls, and the Prize 
Ring, and to burst into tears in the middle thereof? Is there 
no benevolence in the wish to see your friend home, on account 
of your strong impression that he has taken a little too much, 
and that he will tumble against the railings and impale his chin 
upon the spikes; which, of course, you are in no danger of 
doing? Are these things crimes? No! We answer boldly, 
No ! Then, hurrah for neat vrines and free trade ! Open wide 
our harbours to the purple grapes that flourish in the vineyards 
of sunny Burgundy and Bordeaux; and welcome, thrice welcome, 
to the blushing tades which Horace sang so many hundred 
years ago, when our beautiful Earth was younger, and maybe 
fairer, and held its course, though it is hard to believe it, very- 
well indeed, without the genius of modem civilization at the helm. 
There had been a silver cup, with one of the labours of 
Hercules — poor Hercules, how hard they work him in the sport- 
ing world ! — embossed thereon, presented to the Smasher, as a 
tribute of respect for those British qualities which had endeared 
him to his admirers ; and the Smasner's health had been drunk 
with three-times- three, and a little one in ; and then three more 
three-times-three, and another little one in ; and the Smasher 
had returned thanks, and Brandolph of the Brand had proposed 
the Daddy Longlegs, and the Daddy Longlegs had made a veiy 
neat speech in the Lancashire dialect, which the gentlemen of 
the theatrical profession had pretended to understand, but hadi 
not understood; and a Hterary individual — ^being, in fact, the 

d^enti^mm. whose spirited wtm^ -w^ "hw^ qjxotSl above, Mr- 



The Zeft'hunded Smasher makes his Mari» 267 

Jeffrey Hallam Jones, of the In/uerpool Aristides, sporting and 
theatncal correspondent, and constant yisitor at the Gloves — 
had proposed the King; and the Smasher had proposed the 
Press, for the liberties of which, as he said in noble langnage 
afterwards quoted in the Aristides, the gentlemen of the Priie 
Bing were prepared to fight as long as they had a bunch of fives 
to rattle upon the knowledge-box of the foe ; and then tiie Daddy 
Longlegs had proj-osed the Stage, and its greatest glory, Bran- 
dolph of the Brand ; and ultimately everybody had proposed 
everybody else — and then, some one suggesting a quiet song, 
everybody sang. 

[Now, as the demand for a song from each member of the 
festive band was of so noisy and imperative a nature that a 
refusal was not only a moral, but a physical impossibility, it 
would be unbecoming to remark that the melody and harmony 
of the evening were, at best, fluctuating. Annie Laurie was 
evidently a young lady of an undecided mind, and wandered in 
a pleasing manner from G into D, and from I) into E, and then 
back agam with laudable dexterity to G, for the finish. The 
eentleman whose heart was bowed down in the key of G might 
have rendered his performance more effective, had he given liii 
statement of that affliction entirely in one key;, and another 
gentleman, who sang a comic song of seventeen eight-line verses, 
with four lines of chorus to every verse, would have done better 
if he had confined himself to his original plan of singing super- 
humanly flat, instead of varying it, as he occasion^y did, by 
singing pretematuxally sharp. Of course it is an understood 
thing, that in a chorus, every singer should choose his own key, 
or where is the liberty of the subject P — so that need not be 
alluded to. But all this is over; and the guests of Mr. Hem- 
mar have risen to depart, and have found the act of rising to 
depart by no means the tnfle they thought it. It is very hard, 
of course, in such an atmosphere of tobacco, to find the door; 
and that, no doubt, is the reason why so mahy gentlemen seek 
for it in the wrong direction, and buffet insanely with their armg 
against the waU, m search of that orifice. 

Now, there are two gentlemen in whom Mr. Hemmar's neat 
wines have developed a friendship of the warmest description. 
Those two gentlemen are none other than the two master-spirits 
of the evenmg, the Lefb-handed Smasher and Brandolph of the 
Brand — ^who, by the bye, in private life, is known as Augustus 
de Glifford. His name is not written thus in the register of his 
baptism. On that maHcious document he is described as 
William Watson ; but to his friends and the public he has fof 
fifteen years been admired and beloved as the great De Glifford, 
although often familiarly called Braudolph, iu delicatQ oJUbwa^ 
Iq his gre^teai, charactert 



2C8 The Trail of the Serpeni. 

Now, BrandolpH is positively convinced that the Smasher ii 
not in a fit state to go home alone, and the Smasher is eqnallj 
assured that Brandolph will do himself a mischief nnless he is 
watched; so Brandolph is going to see the Smasher home to his 
hotel, which is a considerable distance from the Gloves Tavern ; 
and then the Smasher is coming back again to see Brandolph 
to his lodgings, which are next door but two to the Gloves Tavern. 
So, after having bade good night to every one else, in some 
instances with tears, and always with an affectionate pathos 
verging upon tears, Brandolph flings on his loose overcoat, just 
as Manfred might have flung on hia cloak prior to making a 
morning call upon the witch of the Alps,' and the Smasher twists 
about five yards of particoloured woollen raiment, which he calls 
a comforter, round nis neck, and they sally forth. 

A glorious antumn night ; the full moon high in the heavens, 
with a tiny star following in her wake like a well-bred tuft- 
hunter, and all the other stars keeping their distance, as if they 
had retired to their own ** grounds," as the French say, and 
were at variance with their queen on some matter connected 
with taxes. A glorious night; as light as day — ^nay, almost 
lighter ; for it is a Ught which will bear looking at, and which 
does not dazzle onr eyes as the sun does, when we are presump- 
tuous enough to elevate our absurdly infinitesimal optics to his 
sublimity. Not a speck on the Liverpool pavement, not a dog 
asleep on the doorstep, or a dissipated cat sneaking home down 
an area, but is as visible as in the broad glare of noon. " Such 
a night as this" was almost too much for Lara, and Brandolph of 
the Brand grows sentimental. 

" You wouldn't think," he murmurs, abstractedly, gazing at 
the moon, as he and the Smasher meander arm-in-arm over the 
pavement; "you wouldn't think she hadn't an atmosphere, 
would you P A man might build a theatre there, and he might 
get his company up in balloons ; but I question if it would pay, 
on account of tnat trivial want---she hasn't got an atmosphere." 

" Hasn't she P" said the Smasher, who certainly, if any tiling, 
had, in the matter of sobriety, the advantage of the tragedian. 
" You'll have a black eye though, if you don't steer clear of that 
'ere lamp-post you're makin* for. I never did see such a cove," he 
added ; " with his ^^atmospheres, and his moons, and his b'loons, 
one would think he'd never had a glass or two of wine before." 

Now, to reach the hotel which the left-handed one honoured 
by his presence, it was necessary to pass the quay ; and the 
Bight of the water and the shipping reposing m the stillness 
under the light of the moon, again awakened all the poetry in 
the nature of the romantic Brandolph. 

" It is beautiful !" he said, taking his pet position, and waving 
ififi ^rm 10 tji^ ortbo(iox circle, prior tQ pointing to th^ scene 



The Left'liandiid Smashet fiiakei kis Mark, 2G9 

before Mm. " It is peaceful : it is we who are the blots upon 
the beauty of the earth. Oh, why — why are we false to the 
beautiful and heroic, as the author of the Lady of Lyons would 
observe ? Why are we false to the true ? Why do we drink 
too much and see double? Standing amidst the supreme 
silences, with breathless creation listening to our words, we 
look up to the stars that looked down upon the philosopher of 
the cave ; and we feel that we have retrogradei" Here the 
eminent tragedian ^ve a lurch, and seated himself Mrith some 
violence and precipitation on the kerbstone. "We feel," he 
repeated, " that we have retrograded. It is a pity I" 

" Now, who's to pick him up ?" inquired the Smasher, looking 
round in silent appeal to the lamp-posts about him. " Who's to 
pick him up ? I can't ; and if he sleeps here he'll very likely 
get cold. Get up, you snivelling fool, can't you P" he said, with 
some asperity, to the descendant of Thespis, who, after weeping 
piteously, was drying his eyes with an announce bill of the 
" Tyrant of the Ganges," and by no means improving his per- 
sonal appearance with the red and black printer's ink thereof. 

How mine host of the Cheerful Cherokee would ever have 
extricated his companion from this degraded position, without 
the timely intervention of others, is not to be said ; for at this 
very moment the Smasher beheld a gentleman alight from a 
cab at a Httle distance from where he stood, ask two or three 
questions of the cabman, pay and dismiss him, and then walk 
on in the direction of some steps that led to the water. Tliia 
gentleman wore his hat very much slouched over his face ; he waa 
wrapped in a heavy loose coat, that entirely concealed his figure, 
and evidently earned a parcel of some kind under his left arm.^ 

" Hi !" said the Smasher, as the pedestrian approached ; " Hi, 
you there ! Give us a hand, will you ?" 

The gentleman addressed as "you there" took not the 
slightest notice of this appeal, except, indeed, that he quickened 
his pace considerably, and tried to pass the left-handed one. 

" No, you don't," said our pugilistic friend ; " the cove aa 
refuses to pick up the man that's down is a blot upon the 
English character, and the sooner he's scratched out the better;*' 
wherewith the Smasher squared his fists and placed himself 
directly in the path of the gentleman with the slouched hat. 

" I tell you what it is, my good fellow," said this individual, 
" you may pick up your drunken friend yourself, or you may 
wait the advent of the next policeman, who will do the public a 
service by conveying you both to the station-house, where you 
may finish the evenmg in your own highly-intellectual manner. 
But perliaps you will oe good enough te let me pass, for I'm in 
a hurry ! You see that American vessel yonder — she's dropi^edL 
down the river to wait for the miid\ ^(b \3nK.eii^\^ ^s^PKasiss^^«!^ 



270 tke ^ait of tie SerpMa. 

as fast as it can, and she may set sail as it is before I can feach 
her; so, if you want to earn a sovereign, come and see if yon 
can help me in arousing a waterman and getting off to her ?" 

" Oh, you are off to America, are you P" said the Smasher, 
thoughtfully. " Blow that *ere wine of Hemmar's ! I ought to 
know the cut of your figure-head. I've seen you before — I've 
seen you somewheres before, though where that somewheres was, 
spifiicate me if I can call to mind ! Come, lend a hand with this 
'ere friend o' mine, and I'll lend you a hand with the boatman.** 

" D — n your friend," said the other, savagely ; " let me pass, 
will you, you drunken fool?" 

This was quite enough for the Smasher, who was' just in that 
agreeable frame of mind attendant on the consumption of 
strong waters, in which the jaundiced eye is apt to behold an 
enemy even in a friend, and the equally prejudiced ear is ready 
to hear an insult in the most civil address. 

" Come on, then," said he; and putting himself in a scientific 
attitude, he dodged from side to side two or three times, as if 
setting to his partner in a quadrille, and then, with a movement 
rapid as lightning, went in Mrith his left fist, and planted a 
species of postman's knock exactly between the eyes of the 
stranger, who fell to the ground as on ox falls under the hand 
of an accomplished butcher. 

It is needless to say that, in falling, his hat fell off, and as he 
lay senseless on the pavement, the moonhght on his face revealed 
every feature as distinctly as in the broadest day. 

Tne Smasher knelt down by his side, looked at him atten- 
tively for a few moments, and then gave a long, low whistle. 

" Under the circumstances," he said, ** perhaps I couldn't have 
done a better thing than this 'ere I've done promiscuous. He 
won't go to America by that vessel at any rate ; so if I tele- 
graph to the Cherokees, maybe they will be glad to hear what 
he's up to down here. Come along," continued the sobered 
Smasher, hauling up Mr. Do Clifford by the collar, as ruthlessly 
as if he had been a sack of coal ; " I think I hear the footsteps 
of a Bobby a-coming this way, so we'd better make ourselves 
scarce before we're asked any questions." 

** If," said the distinguished Brandolph, still shedding tears, 
" if the town of Livei-pool was conducted after the manner of 
the Kepublic of Plato, there wouldn't be any policemen. But, 
as I said before, we have retrograded. Take care of the posts," 
he added plaintively. *' It is marvellous the effect a few glasses 
of light wine have upon some people's legs ; while others, on 

the contraiT " here he slid again to the ground, and thig 

time eluded all the Smasher's endeavours to pick him up. 

•* You had better let me be," he murmured. " It is hard, bvl 
It IB cleaa aud comfortable. Bxing me my boots and hot water 



What they fini im the ttoom. i!t\ 

at nine o'clock ; I've an early rehearsal of * The Tyrant.' Go 
home qnietly, my dear friend, and don't take anything more to 
drink, lor your head is evidently not a strong one. Good night." 
" Here's a situation ! " said the Smasher. '* I can't dance 
attendance on him any more, for I must run round to the tele- 
graph office and see if it's open, that I may send Mr. Marwood 
woixl about this nights work. The Count de MaroUes is safe 
enough for a day or two, anyhow ; for I have set a mark upon 
him that he won't rub off just yet^ clever as he is.'* 



CHAPTER IV. 

1FHAT THET FIND IN Tfi£ BOOM IN WHICH THB KXTBDEB WAI 

COMMITTED. 

At the time that the arrest of the Count de Marolles ^vas 
taking place, Mr. Joseph Peters was absent from London, being 
employed upon some mission of a dehcate and secret nature in 
the town oi Slopperton-on-the-Sloshy. 

Slopperton is very little changed since the murder at the 
Black Mill set every tongue going upon its nine-days wonder. 
There may bo a few more tall factory chinmeys ; a few more 
young factory ladies in cotton jackets and coral necklaces all 
the week, and in rustHng silks and artificial flowers on Sunday ; 
the new town — ^that dmgy hanger-on of the old town — may 
have spread a little farther out towards the bright and breezy 
country ; and the railway passenger may perhaps see a larger 
▼eil of black smoke hanging in the atmosphere as he approaches 
the Slopperton station tnan he saw eight years a^o. 

Mr. Peters, being no longer a housenolder in the town, takes 
Qp his abode at a nostehy, and, strange to say, selects the little 
nver-side pubHc-house in which he overheard that conversation 
between the usher and the country girl, the particulars of which 
are already known to the reader. 

He is peculiar in his choice of an hotel, for ''The Bargeman's 
Delight certainly does not offer many attractions to any one 
not a bar^man. It is hard indeed to guess what the particular 
delight of the bargeman may be, which the members of that 
guild find provided for them in the waterside tavern alluded to. 
The bargeman's delight is evidently not cleanliness, or he would 
go elsewhere in search of that virtue; neither can the bargeman 
aftect civility in his entertainers, for the host and that one slip, 
bbod youn^ person who is barmaid, barman, ostler, cook. 
chambermaid, and waiter all in one, are notoriously sulky in 
fcheir conversation with their patrons, and have an aggrieved 
and injured bearing very unpleasant to the sensitive customer. 
But if, on the other hand, the bargeman's delight should hap- 
pen to consist in dirt, and damp, «3id.\^^ <:«5^^gAs\%, ^ajajJi.^^ts^ 



272 The Trail of ike Serpent. 

attendance, and liquors on wHch the small glass brandy-baDa 
peculiar to the publican float triumphantly, and pertinaciously 
refuse to go down to the bottom — ^if such tmngs as these be the 
bargemairs delight, he has them handsomely provided for him 
at this establislmient. 

However this may be, to " The Bargeman's Delight " came 
Mr. Peters on the very day of the Count's arrest, with a carpet- 
bag in one hand and a flshing-rod in the other, and with no less 
a person than Mr. Augustus Darley for his companion. The 
customer, by the bye, was generally initiated into the pleasures 
of this hostelry by being tripped up or tripped down on the 
threshold, and saluting a species of thin soap of sawdust and 
porter, which formed uie upper stratum of the floor, with his 
olfactory organ. The neophyte of the Bosicrucian mysteries 
and of I^reemasonry has, I ly^lieve, something unpleasant done 
to him before be can be safety trusted with the secrets of the 
Temple ; why, then, should not the guest of the DeHght have 
his initiation? Mr. Darley, with some deicterity, however, 
escaped this danger; and, entering the bar safely, entreated 
with the sHp-shod and defiant damsel aforesaid. 

" Could we have a bed P " Mr. Darley asked ; ** in point of 
ffU5t, two beds?" 

VThe damsel glared at him for a few minutes without giving 
any answer at all. Gus repeated the question. 

" We've got two beds," muttered the defiant damsel. 

" All right, then," said Gus. " Come in, old fellow," he 
added to Mr. Peters, whose legs and bluchers were visible at 
the top of the steps, where he patiently awaited the result of 
his companion's entreaty with the priestess of the temple. 

" But I don't know wnether you can have 'em," said the girl, 
with a more injured air than usuaL "We ain't in general 
tsked for beds." 

"Then why do yon put up that?" asked Mr. Darley, point- 
ing to a board on which, in letters that had once been gilt, was* 
inscribed this leeend, " Good Beds." 

" Oh, as for "Biat," said the girl, "that was wrote up before 
we took the place, and we had to pay for it in the fixtures, so 
of course we wasn't a-goin' to take it down! But I'll ask 
master." Whereon she disappeared into the damp and darkness, 
as if she had been the gemus of that mixture ; and presently 
reappeared, saying they could have beds, but that they couldn't 
have a private sitting-room because there wasn't one — ^which 
reason they accepted as unanswerable, and furthermore said 
they would content themselves with such accommodation as the 
bar-parlour afibrded; whereon the slip-shod barmaid relaxed 
from her defiant mood, and told them that they would find it 
quite cheerful, as there was a nice look-out upon the river." 



What tliey find in the Boom *It% 

Mr. Darley ordered a bottle of wine — a tremendous order, rarely 
known to be issned in that establishment — and farther remarked 
that he should be glad if the landlord would brin^ it in, as he 
would like five minutes' conversation with him. After having ffiven 
this overwhelming order, Gus and Mr. Peters entered the panour. 

It was emDty, the parlour; the bargeman was evidently 
taking his delight somewhere else that afternoon. There were 
the wet marks of the bargeman's porter-pots of the momin^^, 
and the dry marks of the bargeman's porter-pots of the day 
before, still on the table ; there were the bargeman's broken 
tobacco-pipes, and the cards wherewith he had played all-fours 
— which cards he had evidently chewed at the comers in aggra- 
vation of spirit when his luck deserted him — strewn about in 
every direction. There were the muddy marks of the barge- 
man's feet on the sandy floor; there was a subtle effluvium of 
mingled corduroy, tobacco, onions, damp leather, and gj^, 
which was the perfume of the bargeman himself; but the 
bargeman in person was not there. 

Mr. Darley walked to the window, and looked out at the river. 
A cheerful sight, did you say, slip-shod Hebe? Is it cheerful 
to look at that thick dingy water, remembering how many a 
wretehed head its current has flowed over; how many a tired 
frame has lain down to find in dea.th the rest life could not yield ; 
how many a lost soul has found a road to another world in that 
black tide, and gone forth impenitent, from the shore of time to 
the ocean of eternity ; how often the golden hair has come up 
in the fisherman's net; and how many a Mary, less happy, since 
less innocent than the heroine of Mr. Kingsley's melodious song, 
has gone out, never, never to ifetum! Mr. Darley perhaps thinks 
this, for he turns his back to the window, calls out to the bar- 
maid to come and light a fire, and proceeds to fill man's great 
consoler, his pipe. 

I very much wonder, gentle readers of the fair sex, that you 
have never contrived somehow or other to pick a quarrel with 
the manes of good, cloak-spoiling, guinea-finding, chivalrous, 
mutineer-encountering, long-suffering, maid-of-honour-adoring 
Walter Baleigh — the importer of the greatest rival woman ever 
had in the affections of man, the tenth Muse, the fourth Grace, 
the uncanonized saint, Tobacco. You are angry with poor Tom, 
whom yon henpeck so cruelly, Mrs. Jones, because he came 
home last night from that little business dinner at Greenwich 
ilightly the worse for the salmon and the cucumber — ^not the 
iced punch! — oh, no! he scarcely touched that! You are angry 
with your better half, and you wish to give him, as you elegantly 
put it, a bit of your mind. My good soul, what does Tom care 
for you — ^behind his pipe? Do you think he is listening to you^ 
or thinking of ycm, as ne site lazily watcfcini^'W^ ^^«sk^ ^^% 



27 1 The Trail of ike Serpent 

the blue wreaths of smoke curling upwards from that hoiipst 
meerschaum bowl? He is thinking of the girl he knew fourteen 
years ago, before ever he fell on ms knees in the back parlour, 
and ricked his ande in proposing to you ; he is thinking of a 
pio-nic in Epping Forest, where ne first met her ; when coats 
were worn short- waisted, and Plancuswas consul; when there 
was scaffolding at Charing Cross, and stage-coaches between 
London and Brighton ; when the wandering minstrel was to be 
found at Beulah Spa, and there was no Mr. Bobson at the 
Olympic. He is looking full in your face, poor Tom! and at- 
tending to every word you say — as you think! Ah! my dear 
madam, believe me, he does not see one feature of your face, or 
hoar one word of your peroration. Ho sees her; he sees her 
standing at the end of a green arcade, with the sunlight fiickei- 
iug between the restless leaves upon her bright brown curls, and 
making arabesaues of light and shade on her innocent white 
dress ; he sees tne little coquettish glance she flings back at Mm, 
as he stands in an attitude he knows now was, if anything, 
spooney, all amongst the debris of the banquet — lobster-salads, 
veal-and-ham pies, empty champagne-bottles, strawberry-stalks, 
parasols, and bonnets and shawls. He hears the singing of the 
Essex birds, the rustling of the forest leaves, her ringing langh^ 
ihe wheels of a carriage, the tinkling of a sheep-bell, the roar of 
a blacksmith's forge, and the fall of waters in the distance. All 
those sweet rustic sounds, which make a music very different 
to the angry tones of your voice, are in his ears; and you, 
madam — ^you, for any impression you can make on him, might 
just as well be on the culminating point of Teneriffe, and would 
find quite as attentive a listener in ohe waste of ocean you might 
behold from that eminence! 

And who is the fairy that works the spell ? Her earthly name 
is Tobacco, alias Bird's-eye, alias Latakia, alias Cavendisn ; and 
the magician who raised her first in the British dominions was 
Walter Ilaleigh. Are you not glad now, gentle reader, that the 
sailors mutinied, that the dear son was killed in that far land, 
and that the mean-spirited Stuart rewarded the noblest and wisest 
ot' his age with a lite in a dungeon and the death of a traitor ? 

I don*t know whether Augustus Darley thought all this as ho 
sat over the struggling smoke and damp in the parlour of thd 
*' Bargeman's Delight," which smoke and damp the defiant bar- 
maid told him would soon develop into a good fire. Gus was 
not a married man; and, again, he and Mr. Peters had very 
|iarticular business on their hands, and had very little time for 
fccntiraental or philosophical reflections. 

The landlord of the "Delight" appeared presently, with what, 
he assured his guests, was such a bottle of port as they wouldn't 
alien meet with. There was a de^rree of obscuritv in this com- 



Wliat tliey find in the Boom. 275 

mendaiion which savoured of the inspired comnmnications of 
the priestess of the oracle, ^acida might conquer the Eomans, 
or tne Eomans might annihilate j^acida; the bottle of port 
might be unapproachable by its excellence, or so utterly execrable 
in quality as to be beyond the power of wine-merchant to imi- 
tate ; and either way uie landloixl not forsworn. Gus looked at 
the bright side of the question, and requested his host to draw 
the cork and bring another glass — "that is," he said, "if you 
can spare half an hour or so for a friendly chat." 

"On, as for that," said the landlord, "I can spare time enough, 
it isn't the business as'll keep me movin*; it's never brisk except 
on wet afternoons, when they comes in with their dirty boots, 
and makes more mess than they drinks beer. A 'found drowned' 
or a inquest enlivens us up now and then; but Lord, there's 
nothing doing nowadays, and even inquests and drownin' seems 
a-goin' out." 

The landlord was essentially a melancholy and blighted crea- 
ture; and he seated himself at his own table, wiped away yes- 
terday's beer with his own coat-sleeve, and prepared himself to 
drink his own port, with a gloomy resignation sublime enough 
to have taken a whole band of conspirators to the scaffold in a 
most creditable manner. 

"My friend," said Mr. Darley, introducing Mr. Peters by a 
wave of his hand, "is a foreigner, and hasn't got hold of our 
language yet; he finds it slippery, and hard to cat^, on account of 
the construction of it, so you must excuse his not being lively." 

The landlord nodded, and remarked, in a cheering manner, 
that he didn't see what there was for the liveliest cove goin' to 
be lively about nowadays. 

After a good deal of desultory conversation, and a description 
of several very interesting inquests, Gus asked the landlord 
whether he remembered an affair that happened about eight or 
nine years ago, or thereabouts — a girl found drowned in the fall 
of the year. 

" There's always bein' girls found drowned," said the landlord 
moodily; "it's my belief they likes it, especially when they've 
lon^ hair. They takes off their bonnets, and they lets down 
their back hairs, and they puts a note in their pockets, wrote 
large, to say as they hopes as how he'U be sorry, and so on. I 
can't remember no girl in particular, eight years ago, at the back 
end of the year. I can call to mind a many promiscuous like, 
off and on, but not to say this was Jane, or that was Sarah." 

" Do you remember a quarrel» then, between a man and a girl 
in this venr room, and the man having his head cut by a sove- 
reign she threw at himP" 

" We never have no quarrels in this room," replied the land- 
lord, with dignity. **The bargemen aom^'^Mniw^^Ma??^ %.*1<bsr ^^s^».* 



2V6 The Trail of the Serpeni. 

and tramples upon each other with their hobnailed boots, and 
their iron heels and toes will dance again when their temper's 
np ; but I don't allow no quarrels here. And yet," he added, 
alter a few moments' reflection, " there was a sort of a row, / 
remember, a many years ago, between a girl as drowned herself 
that night down below, and a young gent, in this 'ere room ; he 
a-sittin' just as you may be a-sittm' now, and she a-standin' 
over by that window, and throwin' four sovereigns at him spite- 
ful, one of them a-catchin' him just over the eyebrow, and cut- 
tin' of him to the bone— and he a-pickin' 'em up when his 
head was bound, and walkin' off with 'em as if nothin' had 
happened." 

"Yes; but do you happen to remember," said Gus, "that he 
only found three out of the four sovereigns ; and that he was 
obhged to give up looking for the last, and go away without it? " 

The landlord of the " Delight " suddemy lapsed into most 
profound meditation; he rubbed his chin, maHng a rasping 
noise as he did so, as if going cautiously over a French roll, first 
with one hand and then with the other; he looked with an 
earnest gaze into the glass of puce-coloured liquid before him, 
took a sip of that Hquid, smacked his lips after the manner of a 
connoisseur, and then said that he couldn't at the present 
moment call to mind the last circumstance alluded to. 

" Shall I tell you," said Gus, " my motive in asking this 
question?" 

The landlord said he might as well mention it as not. 

"Then I will. I want that sovereign. I've a particular 
reason, which I don't want to stop to explain just now, foi 
wanting that very coin of all others; and I don't mind eiying a 
five-pound note to the man that'll put that twenty sniUinga 
worth of gold into my hand." 

" You don't, don't you ? " said the landlord, repeating the 
operations described above, and looking very hard at Gus afl the 
time : after which he sat staring silently from Gus to Peters, 
and from Peters to the puce-coloured liquid, for some minutes : 
at last he said — " It ain't a trap ? " 

" There's the note," repHed Mr. Darley; "look at it, and see il 
it's a good one. I'll lay it on this table, and when you lay down 
that sovereign — that one, mind, and no other — it's yours." 

" You think I've got it, then?" said the landlord, interroga- 
tively. 

" i know you've got it," said Gus, " unless you've spent it." 

" Why, as to that," said the landlord, " when you fost called 

to mind the circumstance of the girl, and the gent, and the 

inquest, and all that, I've a short memory, and couldn't quite 

recollect that there sovereign; but now I do remember finding 

of that very coin a year an^i a \va\i «Jter^^x^^,iQt 'Oex.^ ^ix^sxi^i 



Wkai they find in the Boom. 277 

was biid ttat year, and the Board of Health came a-chiyying of 
us to taJce up our floorings, and lime-wash ourselves inside ; and 
in taking up the flooring of this room what should we come 
across but that very bit of gold ?" 

•* And you never changed it ?" 

" Shall I tell you why I never changed it? Sovereigns ain't 
so plentiful in these parts that I should keep this one to look at. 
Wnat do you say to it's not being a sovereign at all P" 

** Not a sovereign P " 

" Not ; what do you say to it's being a twopenny-halfpenny 
foreign coin, with a lot of rum writin' about ii^a coin as they 
has the cheek to offer me four-and-sixpence for as old gold, and 
as I kep', knowin' it was woi-th more for a cnriosity — eh P " 

** Whjr, all I can sav is," said Gus, " that you did very wisely 
to keep it ; and here s five or perhaps ten umes its value, and 
plenty of interest for your money." 

" Wait a bit," muttered the landlord ; and disappearing into 
the bar, he rummaged in some drawer in the interior of that 
sanctum, and presently reappeared wfth a little parcel screwed 
carefully in newspaper. " llere it is," he said, " and jolly glad 
I am to get rid of tiie useless lumber, as wouldn't buy a loaf of 
bread if one was a starving ; and thank you kindly, sir," he 
continued, as he pocketed the note. " I should like to sell you 
half-a-dozen more of *em at the same price, that's all." 

The coin was East Indian; worm perhaps six or seven 
rupees; in size and touch not at cdl unlike a sovereign, but 
about fifty years old. 

" And now," said Gus, " my friend and I will take a stroll ; 
yon can cook lui a steak for nve o'clock, and in the meantime 
we can amuse ourselves about the town." 

"The factories might be interesting to the foreigneering 
gent," said the landlord, whose spirits seemed very much im- 
proved by the possession of the five-pound note; "there's a 
factory hard by as employs a ix)wer of hands, and there's a 
wheel as killed a man only last week, and you conld see it, I'm 
sure, gents, and welcome, by only mentioning my name. I 
serves the hands as lives round this way, which is a many." 

Gus thanked him for his kind offer, and said they would make 
a ppiQ.t of availing themselves of it. 

The landlord watched them as they walked along the bank it 
the direction of Slopperton, " I expect," he remarked to him- 
gelf, " the Hvely one's mad, and the quiet one's his keeper. But 
five pounds is five pounds ; and that's neither here nor there." 

Instead of seeking both amusement and instruction, as they 
might have done from a careful investigation of the factory in 
question, Messrs. Barley and Petero walked at a pretty biisk 
rate, looking neither to the right liot \ft \3aft \<5^ §asi^2BS3^'?.'^B^ 



• I 



278 The Trail of tie SerpmU. 



most out-of-the-way and Tinfreqtiented streets, till they left tht 
town of Slopperton and the waters of the Sloshy behind them, 
and emerged on to the high road, not so many nnndred yards 
from the house in which Mr. Montague Harding met his death 
— the house of the Black Mill. 

It had never been a lively-looking place at best ; but now, 

with the association of a hideous murdei belonging to it — and 

so much a part of it, that, to all who knew the dreadful story, 

^ death, like a black shadow, seemed to brood above the gloomy 

pile of building and warn the stranger from the infected spot-—- 

it was indeed a melancholy habitation. The shutters of all the 

windows but one were closed ; the garden-paths were overgrown 

with weeds ; the beds choked up ; the trees had shot forth wild 

erratic branches that trailed across the path of the intruder, and 

entangling themselves about him, threw him down before he was 

aware. The house, however, was not uninhabited — Martha, the 

old servant, who had nursed Eichard Marwood when a little 

I child, had the entire care of it ; and she was further provided 

'J. with a comfortable income and a youthful domestic to attend 

;' uipon her, the teachinff, admonishing:, scolding, and patronizing 

of whom made the delight of her quiet existence. 

The bell which Mr. Darley rang at the gate went clanging 
down the walk, as if to be heard in the house were a smaU part 
of its mission, for its sonorous power was calculated to awaken all 
I Slopperton in case of fire, flood, or invasion of the foreign foe. 

Perhaps Gus thought just a little — as he stood at the broad 
white gate, overgrown now with damp and moss, but once so 
trim and bright— of the days when Eichard and he had worn 
little cloth frocks, all ornamented with divers meandering 
' Draids and shining buttons, and had swung to and fro in the 

evening sunshine on that very gate. 

He remembered Eichard throwing him off, and hurting his 

, nose upon the gravel. They had made mud-pies upon that 

I very walk ; they had set elaliorate and most efficient traps for 

j birds, and never caught any, in those very shrubberies ; they 

I I had made a swing under the lime-trees yonder, and a fountain 

I ] that would never work, but had to be ignominiously supplied 

' with jugs of water, and stirred with spoons like a pudding, 

before the crystal shower would consent to mount. A thousand 

recollections of that childish time came back, and with them 

came the thought that the little boy in the braided frock was 

now an outcast from society, supposed to be dead, and his name 

branded as that of a madman and a murderer. 

Martha's attendant, a rosy-cheeked country girl, came down 
the walk at the sound of the clanging bell, and stsj-ed aghast at 
the apparition of two gentlemen — one of them so brilliant in 
€08tnme as our friend Mr. Darley. 



What ihey jmd in the Boom, 279 

Gus told the youthfdl domestic that he had a letter for Mrs. 
Jones. Martha's surname was Jones ; the Mrs. was an honorary 
distinction, as the holy state of matrimony was one of the evils 
the worthy woman had escaped. Gus brought a note from 
Martha's mistress, which assured him a warm welcome. 
•' Would the gentlemen have tea P" Martha said. " Sararanne — 
(the youthfal domestic's name was Sarah Anne, pronounced, 
botl. for euphony and convenience, Sararanne)---Sararanne 
should get them anything they would ple^e to like directly." 
Poor Martha was quite distressed, on beii^told that all they 
wanted was to look at the room in which the murder was 
committed. 

''Was it in the same state as at the time of Mr. Harding's 
death?" asked Gus. 

It had never been touched, Mrs. Jones assured them, since 
that dreadful time. Such was her mistress's wish ; it had been 
kept clean and dry; but not a bit of furniturfe had been moved. 

Mrs. Jones was rheumatic, and rarely stirred from her seat of 
honour by the fireside ; so Sararanne was sent with a bunch of 
keys in her hand to conduct the gentlemen to the room in question. 

Now there were two things self-evident in the manner of Sarar- 
anne ; first, that she was pleased at the idea of a possible flirta- 
tion with the brilliant Mr. Darley ; secondly, that she didn't at 
all like the ordeal of opening and entering the dreaded room in 
question ; so, between ner desire to be fascinating and her un- 
Ci)ntrolkble fear of the encounter before her, she endured a 
mental struggle painful to the beholder. 

The shutters m the front of the house being, with one excep- 
tion, all closed, the hall and staircase were wrapped in a 
shadowy gloom, far more alarming to the timid mind than com- 
plete darkness. In complete darkness, for instance, the eight- 
day clock in the corner would have been a clock, and not an 
elderly ghost with a broad white face and a brown greatcoat, as 
it seemed to be in the uncertain glimmer which crept through a 
distant skylight covered with ivy. Sararanne was evidently 
possessed with the idea that Mr. Darley and his friend would 
decoy her to the very threshold of the haunted chamber, and 
then fly ignominiously, leaving her to brave the perils of it by 
herself. Mr. Barley's repeated assurances that it was all right> 
and that on the whole it would be advisable to look alive, as 
life was short and time was long, etcetera, had the effect at last 
of inducing the damsel to ascend the stairs — ^looking behind her 
at every other step|— and to conduct the visitors along a passage, 
at the end of which she stopped, selected with considerable 
celerity a key from the bunch, plunged it into the keyhole of 
the door before her, said, ** That is the room, gentlemen, if you 
please," dropped a curtsey, and turned and ^sA. 



280 The Trail of the Serpent. 

The door opened with a scroop, and Mr. Peters realized at last 
the darling wish of his heart, and stood in the very room in 
which the murder had been committed. Gus looked round, went 
to the window, opened the shutters to the widest extent, and the 
afternoon sunshme streamed full into the room, Hghtmg e^erv 
crevice, revealing every speck of dust on the moth-eaten damask 
|)ed-curtains — every crack and stain on the worm-eaten flooring. 

To see Mr. Darley look round the room, and to see Mr. Peters 
look round it, is to see two things as utterly wide apart as it is 
possible for one look to be from another. The young surgeon's 
eyes wander here and there, £z themselves nowhere, and rest 
two or three times upon the same object before they seem to take 
in the full meaning of that object. The eyes of Mr. Peters, on 
the contrary, take the circuit of the apartment with equal pre- 
cision and rapidity — go from number one to number two, from 
number two to number three; and having given a carefrd inspec- 
tion to every article of furniture in the room, fix at last in a gaze 
of concentrated intensity on the tout ensemble of the chamcKer. 

** Can you make out anjrthing P" at last asks Mr. Darley. 

Mr. Peters nods his head, and in reply to this question drops 
•n one knee, and falls to examining the flooring. 

" Do you see anything in that ?" asks Gus. 

^ Yes?.** replies Mr. Peters on his fingers ; " look at this.** 

Qus does look at this. This is the flooring, which is in a very 
iotten and dilapidated state, by the bedside. "Well, what 
then P " he asks. 

** What then P said Mr. Peters, on his fingers, with an ex- 
pression of considerable contempt pervadmg his features; 
**what thenP You're a very talented voung cent, Mr. Darley, 
%nd if I wanted a prescription for the bile, which I'm troubled 
with sometimes, or a tip for the Derby, which I don't, not being 
« sporting man, you're the gent I'd come to ; but for all that 
you ain't no police-officer, or you'd never ask that question. 
What thenP Dc you remember as one of the facts so hard 
agen Mr. Marwood was the blood-stains on his sleeve P Yok 
«e these here cra/»ks and crevices in this here floorin' P Very 
•urell, then ; Mr. Mai vvood slept in the room under this. He was 
\ired, I've heard him say, and he threw himself down on the 
^led in his coat. What more natural, then, than that there 
thould be blood upon his sleeve, and what more easy to goesft 
%han the way it came there P" 

'^ You think it dropped through, thenP** asked Gns. 

*' I think it dropped through, said Mr. Peters, on his fingers, 
'cith biting irony ; " I know it dropped through. His counsel 
^*as a nice un, not to bring this into court," he added, pointing 
to the boards on which he knelt. '* K I'd only seen this plaM 



What fkey find tn the Boom. 281 

before the trial But I was nobody, and it was like my pre* 

cious impudence to ask to go over &e house, of course I Now 
then, for number two." 

"And that is P" asked Mr. Darlejr, who waa quite in the 

dark as to Mr. Peters'e views ; that functionary beinff impHcitly 
beheved in by Richard and his friend, and allowed, tnerefore, to 
be just as mysterious as he pleased. 

" Number two's this here, answered the detective. " I wants 
to find another or two of them rum Indian coins; for our young 
friend Dead-and- Alive, as is here to-day and gone to-morrow, 
got that one as he gave the girl from that cabinet, or my name's 
not Joseph Peters;" wherewith Mr. Peters, who had been en- 
trusted by Mrs. Marwood with the keys of the cabinet in ques- 
tion, proceeded to open the doors of it, and to carefully inspect 
that old-fashioned piece of furniture. 

There were a great many drawers, and boxes, and piffeon-holes, 
and queer nooks and corners in this old cabinet, all smelling 
equally of old age, damp, and cedar-wood. Mr. Peters pulled 
out drawers and opened boxes, found secret drawers in the in- 
side of other drawers, and boxes hid in ambush in other boxes, 
all with so little result, beyond the discovery of old papers, 
bundles of letters tied with faded red tape, a simpering and 
neutral-tinted miniature or two of the fashion of some fifty 
years gone by, when a bright blue coat and brass buttons was 
the correct thing for a dinner-party, and your man about town 
wore a watch in each of his breeches-pockets, and simpered at 
you behind a shirt-frill wide enough to separate him for ever 
from his friends and acquaintance. Besides these things, Mr. 
Peters found a Johnson's dictionary, a ready-reckoner, and a 
pair of boot-hooks ; but as he found nothing else, Mr. Darley 
grew quite tired of watching his proceedings, and suggested that 
they should adjourn ; for he remarked — " Is it likely that such 
a fellow as this North would leave anything behind him P" 

" Wait a bit," said Mr. Peters, with an expressive jerk of his 
head. Gus shrugged his shoulders, took out his cigar-case, 
lighted a cheroot, and walked to the window, where he leaned 
with his elbows on the sill, puffing blue clouds of tobacco-smoke 
down among the straggUng creepers that covered the walls and 
climbed round the casement, while the detective resumed his 
search among the old bundles of papers. He was nearly aban- 
doning it, when, in one of the outer drawers, he took up an 
object he had passed over in his first inspection. It was a small 
canvas bag, such as is used to hold money, and was apparently 
empty; but while pondering on his futUe search, M*r. Peters 
twisted this bag in a moment of absence of mind between his 
fingers, swinging it backwards and forwards in the air. In so 
doiag, he knockS it against the side of llc^a t\5^im<iV^sA^\Rk\sNa. 



282 The Trail of the Serpent. 

surprise, it emitted a sharp metallic sound. It was not empty, 
then, although it appeared so. A moment's examination showed 
the detective that he had succeeded in obtaining the object of 
his search ; the bag had been used for money, and a small coin 
had lodged in the seam at one comer of the bottom of it, and 
had stuck so firmly as not to be easily shaken out. This, in the 
murderer's hurried ransacking of the cabinet, in his blind fury at 
not finding the sum he expected to obtain, had naturally escaped 
him. The piece of money was a small gold coin, only half the value 
of the one found by the landlord, but of the same date and style. 

Mr. Peters gave his fingers a triumphant snap, which aroused 
the attention of Mr. Darley; and, with a glance expressive of 
the pride in his art which is pecuHar to your true genius, held 
up the little piece of dingy gold. 

" By Jove I " exclaimed the admiring Gus, " you've got it, then ! 
Egad, Peters, I think you'd make evidence, if there wasu't any." 

" Eight years of that young man's life, sir," said the rapid 
fingers, ** has been sacrificed to the stupidity of them as should 
have pulled him through." 

CHAPTER V. 

ME. ^ETEBS DECIDES OK A STBANGE STEP, AND ABBZST8 THE DEAD. 

While Mr. Peters, assisted by Richard's sincere friend, the 
young surgeon, made the visit above described, Daredevil Dick 
counted the hours in London. It was essential to the success of 
his cause, Gus and Peters urged, that he should not show him- 
self, or in any way reveal the fact of bis existence, till the real 
murderer was arrested. Let the truth appear to aU the world, 
and then time enough- for Richard to come forth, with an 
anbranded forehead, in the sight of his fellow-men. But when 
he heard that Raymond Marolles had given his pursuers the 
sHp, and was off, no one knew where, it was all that his mother, 
his friend Percy Cordonner, Isabella Darley, and the lawyers to 
whom he had intrusted his cause, could do, to prevent his start- 
ing that instant on the track of the guilty man. It was a 
weary day, this day of the failure of the arrest, for all. Neither 
his mother's tender consolation, nor his solicitor's assuiuncea 
that all was not yet lost, could moderate the young man's impa- 
tience. Neither Isabella's tearful prayers that he would leave 
the issue in the hands of Heaven, nor Mr. Cordonner's philo- 
Bophical recommendation to take it quietly and let the "beggar*' 
go, could keep him chalet. He felt like a caged Hon, whose 
Ignoble bonds kept him from the vile object of his rage. ^ The 
day wore out, however, and no tidings came of the fugitive. 
Mr. Cordonner insisted on stopping with his fnend till three 
o'clock in the morning, and at that very late hour set out» with tlie 



Mr, Peters arrests the Lead. 288 

nteoiidon of going down to theCherokees — it was a OheerM night, 
and they would most likely be etill assembled — ^to ascertain, as be 
popularly eroressed it, whether anything had " turned up" there. 
The clock ot St. Martin's struck "fliree as he stood with Richard 
at the street-door in Spring Gardens, giving friendly consolation 
between the puffs of his cigar to the agitated young man. 

" In the first place, my dear boy," he said, " if you can't catch 
the fellow, you can't catch the fellow — that's sound logic and a 
mathematical argument; then why make yourself unhappy 
about it P Why try to square the circle, only because the circle s 
round, and can't be squared P Let it alone. If this fellow turns 
up, hang him ! I should glory in seeing him hung, for he's an 
out-and-out scoundrel, and I should make a point of witnessing 
the performance, if the officials would do the thing at a reason- 
able hour, and not execute him in the middle of the night and 
swindle the respectable pubhc. If he doesn't turn up, why, let 
the matter rest; marry that little girl in there. Barley's pretty 
sister — who seems, by the bye, to be absurdly fond of you — and 
let the question rest. That's my philosophy." 

The young man turned away with an impatient sigh; then, 
laying his hand on Percy's shoulder, he said, "My dear old 
fellow, if everybody in the world were like you, Napoleon woxdd 
have died a Corsican lawyer, or a lieutenant in the French army. 
Robespierre would have Hved a petty barrister, with a penchant 
for getting up in the night to eat jam tarts and a mania for 
writmg bad poetry. The third state would have gone home quietly 
to its farmyards and its merchants' offices ; there would have 
oeen no Oath of the Tenis Court, and no Battle of "Waterloo." 

" And a veir good thing, too," said his philosophical friend ; 
** nobody would have been a loser bttt Astley's — only think of 
that. If there had been no Napoleon, what a loss for imago 
boys, Gomersal the Great, and Astley's. Forgive me, Dick, for 
laughing at you. I'll cut down to the Cheerfuls, and see if any- 
thing's up. The Smasher's away, or he might have given us 
his advice; the genius of the P.R. might have been of some 
service in this anair. Good night !" He gave Ricbard a lan- 
guidly affectionate shake of the hand, and departed. 

Now, when Mr. Cordonner said he would cut down to the 
Cherokees, let it not be thought by the simple-minded reader 
that the expression "cut down," from his Hps, conveyed that 
degree of velocity which, though perhaps a sufficiently vague 
phrase in itself, it is calculated to carry to the ordinary mind. 
I*ercy Cordonner had never been seen by mortal man in a hurry. 
He had been known to be too late for a train, and had is^i? 
beheld placidly lounging at a few paces from the departing 
engine, and mildly but rather reproachfully regarding that 
object. The psospccta of his entire life Taai^ >aaN^ Xficaj^Q^ cssOb^^ 



284 The Trail of tie Serpont. 

goin^ by tliat particulax train ; but he would nevet be 00 faJae 
to his principlds as to make himself aupleasantlj warm, or in 
any way disturb the delicate organization with which nature had 
gifted mm. He had been seen at the aoors of the Opera-lious^ 
when Jenny lind was going to appear in the FigUa, and while 
those around him were afflicted with a temporary lunacy, and 
trampling one another wildly in the mud, he had been observed 
leaning against a couple 01 fat men as in an easy-chair, and 
standing high and dry upon somebody else's boots, breathing 
gentlemanly and polyglot execrations upon the surrounding 
crowd, when, in swaying to and fro, it disturbed or attempted to 
disturb his serenity. So, when he said he would cut down t<v 
the Oherokees, he of course meant that he would cut after his 
manner ; and he accordingly rolled languidly along the deserted 
pavements of the Strand, with somethmg of the insouciant and 
purposeless manner that Basselas may have had in a walk 
through the arcades of his happy valley. He reached the well- 
known tavern at last, however, and stopping under the sign of 
the washed-out Indian desperately tomahawking nothing, in the 
direction of Covent Garden, with an arm more distinguished for 
muscular development than correct drawing, he gave the well- 
known signal of the club, and was admitted by the damsel 
before described, who appeared always to devote tne watches of 
the night to the process of putting her hair in papers, that she 
might wear that becoming "head" for the adiniration of the 
jug-and-bottle customers of the following day, and shine in a 
frame of very long and very greasy curls that were apt to sweep 
the heads off brown stouts, and dip gently into " goes " of 
spirits upon the more brilliant company of tne evening. This 
young lady, popularly known as 'Liza, was well up in the sport- 
mg business of the house, read the Life during church-time on 
Sundays, and was even believed to have communicated with 
that Ehadamanthine journal, imder the signature of L., in the 
answers to correspondents. She was understood to be engaged, 
or, as her friends and admirers expressed it, to be " keeping com- 
pany " with that luminary of the P.R., the Middlesex Mawler, 
whose head-quarters were at the Cherokee. 

Mr. Oordonner found three Cheerfuls assembled in the bar, in 
a state of intense excitement and soda.- water. A telegraphic 
message had just arrived from the Smasher. It was worthy, in 
economy of construction, of the Delphic oracle, and had the ad- 
vantage of being easy to understand. It was as follows — " Tell 
B. M. he* 8 here; had no orders, so went in with left: he won't 
be able to move for a day or two." 

Mr. Cordonner was almost si^rprised, and was thus very nearly 

false, for once in his Hfe, to the only art he knew. ** This will 

tte good news in Spring Gardens," lie said; "but Peters won't 



Mr, Peters arrests the Dead, 28C 

be back till to-morrow night. Suppose," he ad;!e<i, musing, " we 
were to telegraph to hmi at Slopperton instonter? I know 
where he hangs out there. If anybody could find a cab and 
\ake the message it would be doing Marwood an inestimable 
service," added Mr. Cordonner, passing through the bar, and 
lazily seating himself on a green-and-gold Cream of the Valley 
cask, with his hat very much on the back of his head, and his 
hands in his pockets. ** 1*11 write the message." 

He scribbled upon a card — " Go across to Liverpool. He'« 
given us the slip, and is there ;" and handed it politely towards 
the three Oheerfuls who were leaning over the pewter counter. 

Splitters, the dramatic author, clutched the document eagerly ; 
to his poetic mind it suggested that best gift of inspiration, ** & 
situation." 

" I'll take it," he said ; " what a fine line it would make in a 
biQ! *The intercepted telegram,' with a comic railway clerk, 
and the villain of the piece cutting the wires I" 

" Away with you. Splitters," said Percy Cordonner. " Don't 
let the Strand become verdant beneath your airy tread. Don't 
stop to compose a five-act drama as you go, that's a good fel- 
low. 'Liza, my dear girl, a pint of your creamiest Edmburgh, 
and let it be as mild as the disposition of your humble servant." 

Three days after the above conversation, three gentlemen wer^ 
assembled at breakfast in a small room in a tavern overlooking 
the quay at Liverpool. This triangular party consisted of the 
Smasher, in an elegant and simple morning costume, consisting 
of tight trousers of Stuart plaid, an orange-coloured necktie, a 
blue checked waistcoat, and shirt-sleeves. The Smasher looked 
upon a coat as an essentially outdoor garment, and woidd no 
more have invested himself m it to eat his breakfast than he 
would have partaken of that refreshment with his hat on, or an 
umbrella up. The two other gentlemen were Mr. Darley, and 
his chief, Mr. Peters, who had a little document in his pocket 
signed by a Lancashire magistrate, on which he set considerabla 
value. They had come across to Liverpool as directed by the 
telegraph, and had there met with the Smasher, who had 
received letters for them from London with the details of the 
escape, and orders to be on the look-out for Peters and Gus. 
Since the arrival of these two, the trio had led a sufficiently idle 
and apparently purposeless life. They had engaged an apart- 
ment overlookmg the quay, in the window of which they were 
seated for the best part of the day, playing the intellectual and 
exciting game of aU-fours. There id not seem much in this to 
forward the cause of Eichard Marwood. It is true that Mr. 
Peters was wont to vanish from the room every now and then* 
in order to speak to mysterious and grave-looking gentlemen^ 
who commanded respect wherevet thes^ -^etA.^ ^aA\i^<»fc '^ttfsc^ 



2S6 The Trail of the Serpent. 

the most daring thief in Liverpool shrank as before Mr Oalcrafb 
himself. He held strange conferences with them in comers of 
the hostehy in which the trio had taken np their abode ; he 
v^ent ont with them, and hovered abont the qnajs and the ship- 
ping ; he prowled abont in the dusk of the evemng, and meeting 
these gentlemen also prowling in the uncertain light, wonld 
sometimes salute them as friends and brothers, at other times 
be entirely unacquainted with them, and now and then inter- 
change two or three hurried gestures with them, which the close 
observer would have perceived to mean a great deal. Beyond 
this, nothing had been done — and, in spite of all this, no tidings 
could be obtained of the Count de Marolles, except that no 

esrson answering to his description had left Liverpool either by 
nd or water. Still, neither Mr. Peters's spirits nor patience 
failed him ; and after every interview held upon the stairs or in 
the passage, after every excursion ^>o the quays or the streets, he 
returned as briskly as on the first day, and reseated himself at 
the little table by the window, at which his colleagues — or rather 
his companions, for neither Mr. Darley nor the Smasher were of 
the smallest use to him — played, and took it in turns to ruin 
each other from morning till night. The real truth of tho 
matter was, that, if anything, the detective's so-called assistants 
were decidedly in his vray; bnt Augustus Darley, having dis- 
tinguished himself in the escape from the asylum, considered 
himself an amateur Vidocque; and the Smasher,' from the 
moment of putting in his left, and unconsciously advancing the 
cause of Richard and justice by extinguishing the Count de 
Marolles, had panted to write his name, or rather make his 
mark, upon tho scroll of iame, by arresting that gentleman iir 
his own proper person, and without any extraneous aid what- 
ever. It was rather hard for him, then, to have to resign the 
prospect of such a glorious adventure to a man of Mr. Peters's 
mches; but he was of a calm and amiable disposition, and 
would floor his adversary with as much good temper as he 
would eat his favourite dinner ; so, with a growl of resignation, 
he abandoned the reins to the steady hands so used to hold 
them, and seated himself down to the consumption of innumer- 
able clay pipes and glasses of bitter ale with Gus, who, being 
one of the most ancient of the order of the Cherokees, was an 
especial favourite with him. 

On this third morning, however, there is a decided tone of weari- 
ness pervading the minds of both Gus and the Smasher. Three- 
handed all-fours, though a delicious and exciting game, will pall 
upon the inconstant mind, especially when your third player ia 
perpetually summoned from the table to take part in a mys- 
terious dialogue with a person or persons unknown, the result 
of which he declines to communicate to you. The view &oib 



Mr. Peters arrests tlie Dead, 2S7 

the bow-window of the blue parlour in the White Lion, Liver* 
pool, is no doubt as animated as it is beautiful; but Eassclas, 
we know, got tired of some Very pretty scenery, and there have 
been readers so inconstant as to grow weary of Dr. Johnson's 
book, and to go down peacefully' to their graves unacquainted 
with the cHmaz thereof. So it is scarcely perhaps to be won- 
dered that the volatile Augustus thirsted for the waterworks o. 
Blackiriars ; while the Smasher, feeling himself to be blushing 
unseen, and wasting his staminsi, if not his sweetness, on \m 
desert air, pined for the familiar shades of Bow Street and 
Vinegar Yard, and the home-sounds of the rumbling and 
jinghng of the wagons, and the unpolite language of the drivers 
thereof, on market mornings in the adjacent market. Pleasures 
and palaces are all very well in their way, as the song says ; but 
there is just one little spot on earth which, whether it be a garret 
in Petticoat Lane or a mansion in Belgrave Square, is apt to be 
dearer to us than the best of them ; and the Smasher languishes 
for the friendly touch of the ebony handles of the porter-engine; 
and the scent of the Welsh rarebits of his youth. Perhaps I 
express myself in a more romantic manner on this subjecti 
however, than I should do, for the remark of the Left-handed 
one, as he pours himself out a cup of tea from the top of the 
tea-pot — he despises the spout of that vessel as a modem inno- 
vation on ancient simplicity — ^is as simple as it is energetic. He 
merely observes that he is "jolly si<jk of this lot," — ^this lot 
xaeamng Liveroool, the Count de MaroUes, the White Lion, 
three-handed au-fours, and the detective police-force. 

" There was nobody ill in Friar Street when I left," said Gus 
mournfully ; " but there had been a run upon Pimpemeckera 
Universal Regenerator PiUs : and if that don't make business a 
little brisker, nothing will." 

"It's my opinion," observed the Smasher doggedly, "that 
this 'ere forrin cove has give us the slip out and out ; and the 
sooner we gets back to London the better. I never was much 
of a hand at chasing wild geese, and" — ^he added, with rather a 
spiteful glance at the mild countenance of the detective — "I 
don't see neither that standin' and makin' signs to parties uii* 
beknown at street-comers and stair-heads is the qmckest wa j 
to catch them sort of birds ; leastways it's not the opinion he Ic 
by the gents belongin' to the Ring as I've had the honour t< 
make acquaintance with." 

" Suppose " said Mr. Peters, on his fingers. 

" Oh !" muttered the Smasher, " blow them finpjers of his. I 
can't understand *em — there !" The left-handed Hercules knew 
that this was to attack the detective on his tenderest point. 
" Blest if I ever knows his ^'s from his Z/*s, or his la's from his 
«'s, let alone his vowels, and them would -^najLiXft «». ^^Tsjjoasst? 



288 Trail of the Serpent. 

Mr. Peters glanced at the prize-figHter more in sorrow tliaa in 
anger, and taking out a greasy little pocket-book, and a ^preasier 
litfie pencil, considerably the worse for having been vehemently 
chewed in moments of preoccupation, he wrote npon a leaf of 
it thns — " Suppose we catoh him to-day P" 

*' Ah, very true," said the Smasher sulkily, after he had eoca- 
mined^the Qocument in two or three diifferent lights before he 
came upon its full bearings; "very true, indeed, suppose we 
do— and suppose we don't, on the other hand; and I know 
which is the likeliest. Suppose, Mr. Peters, we give up lookin' 
for a needle in a bundle of nay, which after a time gets tryin* to 
a lively disposition, and go back to our businesses* If you had a 
girl as didn't know British from best French a-servin* of yowr 
customers," he continued in an injured tone, " you^d be anxious to 
get home, and let your forrin counts go to the devil theirown ways." 

" Then go," Mr. Peters wrote, in large letters and no capitals. 

** Oh, ah ; yes, to be sure," replied the Smasher, who, I regret 
to gay. felt painiiiUy, in his absence from domestic pleas^ 
the want of somebody to quarrel with ; " No, I thank you ! Gh> 
the very day as you're §omg to catch him ! Not if I'm in any 
manner aware of the cu'cumstance. I'm obliged to you," lie 
added, with satirical emphasis. 

" Come, I say, old boy," interposed Gus, who had been quietly 
doing execution upon a plate of devilled kidneys during thia 
little friendly altercation, *' come, I sa]^, no snarung. Smasher 
Peters isn't going to contest the belt with you, you knov." 

" You needn't be a-diggin' at me because I ain't champion,' 
said the ornament of the P.B., who was inclined to find a mal« 
cious meaning in every word uttered that morning; " you needn't 
come any of your sneers because I ain't got the belt any longer.'* 

The Smasher had been Champion of England in ms youth, 
but had retired upon his laurels for many years, ana only 
occasionally emerged from private life in a pubhc-house to take 
a round or two with some old opponent. 

" I tell you what it is, Smasher — it's my opinion the air of 
Liverpool don't suit your constitution," said Gus. "We've 
promised to stand by Peters here, and to go by his word in 
nverything, for the sake of the man we want to serve; and, 
however trying it may be to our patience doing nothing, which 
perhaps is about as much as we can do and make no mistakes, 
the first that gets tired and deserts the ship will be no friend to 
Richard Marwood." 

•* I'm a bad lot, Mr. Darley, and that's the truth," said the 
mollified Smasher ; " but the fact is, I'm used to a turn with 
the glovea every morning before breakfast with the barmaOv 
Mid when I don't get it, I dare say I ain't the pleasantest 
tompany goin'. I should think they've got gloves in the 



Mr. Peters arrests the Dead. 28& 

lakonse: wonld yon mind taking off yonr ooat and Having a 
turn — ^friendly like P" 

Gns assured the SmasHer that notliing would please him 
better than that trifling diversion; and in five minutes they 
had pushed Mr. Peters and the breakfast-table into a comer, 
and were hard at it, Mr. Parley's knowledge of the art being all 
required to keep the slightest pace with the scientific movements 
of the agile though elderly Smasher. 

Mr. Peters did not stay at the breaMast-table long, but after 
having drunk a huge breakfast cupful of very opaque and sub- 
stantial-looking coffee at a draught, just as if it had been half a 
pint of beer, he slid quietly out of the room. 

" It's my opinion," said the Smasher, as he stood, or rathei 
lounged, upon his guard, and warded off the most elaborate 
combinations of Mr. Parley's fists with as much ease as he 
would have brushed aside so many flies — " it's my opinion that 
chap ain't up to his business." 

"Isn't hep" replied Gus, as he threw down the gloves in 
despair, after having been half an hour in a violent perspiration, 
without having succeeded in so much as rumpling the Smasher's 
hair. "Isn't heP" he said, choosing the interrogative as the 
most expressive form of speech. " That man's got head enough 
to be prime minister, and carry the House along with every 
twist of his fingers." 

"He must make his n's and Vs a little plainer afore hell 

get a bill through the Commons though," muttered the Left- 
anded one, who couldn't quite get over his feelings of injury 
against the detective for the utter darkness in which he had 
been kept for the last three days as to the other's plaias. 

The Smasher and Mr. Darley passed the morning in that 
remarkably intellectual and praiseworthv manner peculiar to 
gentlemen who, being thrown out of theif usual occupation, are 
cast upon their own resources for amusement and employment. 
There was the daily paper to be looked at, to begin with ; but 
after Gus had glanced at the leading article, a rifaciniento of 
the Times leader of the day before, garnished with some local 
allusions, and highly spiced with satirical remarks apropos to 
our spirited contemporary the Liverpool Ariatides; after the 
Smasher had looked at the racing fixtures for the coming week, 
and made rude observations on the editing of a journal which 
failed to describe the coming off of the event between Silver* 
^lled Robert and the Chester Crusher — after, I say, the two 
gentlemen had each devoured his favourite page, the paper was 
an utter failure in tlie matter of excitement, and the window was 
the next best thing. Now to the peculiarly constituted mind of 
the Left-handed one, looking out of a window was in itself vei^ 
B^ow work ; and unless he was allowed to eiect ws!?*^^'^ ^^^ ^ 



2f)0 The Trail of the Serpent. 

thiiing bat annoying character — such as hot ashes out of las 
pipe, the last drop of his pint of beer, the dirty water out of 
the saucers belonging to the flower-pots on the window-sill, or 
lighted lucifer-matches— into the eyes of the unoffending 
passers-by, he didn't, to use his own forcible remark, ** seem to 
see the nm of it." Harmless old gentlemen with umbreUaSy 
mild elderly ladies with hand-baskets and brass-handled ^pneeu- 
vJk parasols, and young ladies of &om ten to twelve going to 
jchool in dean frocks, and on particularly good terms with 
themselves, the Smasher looked upon as his peculiar prey. To 
put his head out of the window and make tender ^id polite 
mquiries about their maternal parents; to go farther stilt and 
express an earnest wish to be informed of those parents' domes- 
tic arrangements, and whether they had been mduced to part 
with a piece of machinery of some importance in the getting up 
of linen ; to insinuate alarming suggestions of mad bulls in the 
next street, or a tiger just broke loose firom the Zoological 
Gardens; io terrify the youthful scholar by asking him de- 
risively \Vii:Cither he wouldn't " catch it when he got to school P 
Oh, no, not at aU, neither !" and to draw his head away sud- 
denly, and altogether disappear from pubHc view ; to act, in 
fact, after the manner of an accomplished clown in a Chiistmafl 
pantomime, was the weak dehght of his manly mind: and 
when prevented by Mr. Barley's friendly remonstrance £rom 
doing this, the Smasher abandoned the window altogether, and 
concentrated all the powers of his intellect on the pursuit of a 
hvely young bluebottle, which eluded his bandanna at every 
turn, and bumped itself violently against the window-panes at 
the very moment its pursuer was looking for it up the cninmey. 

Time and the hour made very long work of this particular 
morning, and several glasses of bitter had been called for, and 
numerous games of cnbbage had been played by the two com- 
panions, ^etn Mr. Darley, looking at nis watch for not more 
than the twenty-second time in the last, hour, announced with 
some satisfaction that it was half-past two o'clock, and that it 
was consequently very near dinner-time. 

" Peters is a long time gone," suggested the Smasher. 

" Take my word for it," said Gus, " something has turned up; 
ho has bid his hand upon De MaroUes at last." 

•'I don't think it," replied his ally, obstinately refusing to 
bt.'lieve in Mr. Peters's extra share of the divine afflatus ; " and 
it he did come across him, how's he to detain him, Pd like to 
know? He couldn't go in >vith his left," he muttered derisively, 
** and spHt his head open upon the pavement to keep him quiet 
for a day or two." 

At this very moment there came a tap at the door, and % 
yuathful person in corduroy and a perspiration entered the 



Mr, Peters arrests fke Bead, 291 

K)oin, witli a /erjr small and very dirty piece of paper twisted 
ap into a bad inutation of a three-cornered note. 

" Please, yon was to give me sixpence if I run all the way," 
remarked the youthful Mercuiy, ** an* I *ave : look at my fore- 
head;" and, in proof of his fidelity, the messenger pointed to 
the water-drops which chased each other down nis open brow 
and ran a dead heat to the end of his nose. 

The scrawl ran thus — "The Washirigton sails at three for 
New York: be on the quay and see the passengers embark:. 
don*t notice me unless I notice you. Yours truly " 

" It was just give me by a gent in a hurry wot was dumb, 
a.nd wrote upon a piece of paper to tell me to run my legs off so 
as you should have it quick — ^thank you Isindly, sir, and good 
afternoon," said the messenger, all in one bieath, as he bowed his 
gi-atitude for the shilling Gus tossed him as he dismissed him. 

" I said so," cried the young surgeon, as the Smasher applied 
himself to the notd with quite as much, nay, perhaps more 
earnestness and solemnity than Chevalier Bunsen might have 
assumed when he deciphered a half -erased and illegible inscrij)- 
tion, in a language which for some two thousand years has been 
unknown to moribl man. " I said so ; Peters is on the scent, 
and this man will be taken yet. Put on your hat, Smasher, 
and let's lose no time ; it only wants a quarter to three, and I 
wouldn't be out of this for a great deal." 

* I shouldn't much relish being out of the fun either," replied 
his companion ; " and if it comes to blows, perhaps it's just as 
well I haven't had my dinner." 

There were a good many people ^oing by the Wasliington^ 
and the deck of the small steanis:!>r which was to convey them on 
board the great ship, where she lay in graceful majesty down 
the noble Mersey river, was crowded with every species of lug- 
gage it was possible to imagine as appertaining to the widest 
varieties of the genus traveller. There was the maiden lady, 
with a small income fi:om the three-per-cents, and a determina- 
tion of blood to the tip of a sharp nose, going out to join a 
married brother in New York, and evidently intent upon import- 
ing a gigantic brass cage, containing a parrot in the last stage 
of bald-headedness — politely called moulting ; and a limp and 
wandering-minded umbrella — weak in the ribs, and further 
afflicted with a painfully bharp ferrule, which always appeared 
where it was not expected, and evidently hankered >vildly after 
the bystanders* backbones — as favourable si)ecimens of the 
progress of the fine arts in the mother country. There were 
several of those brilliant birds-of-passage popularly known as 
** travellers," whose heavy luggage consisted oi a carpet-bag and 
walking-stick, and whose light ditto was composed of a pocket- 
book and a silver pencil-case of protean construction^ v{h:L<t.K^<«^6A 



202 The Trail of the Serpent 

fiomctiiiiea a pen, now and then a penknife, and very often a 
toothpick. Theae gentlemen came down to the steamer at the 
last moment, inspiring the minds of nervous passengers with 
Bnpcr natural and convulsive cheerfulness by the Hght and airy 
way iu which they bade adieu to the comrades who had ju8t 
looked round to see them start, and who made appointments 
with thom for Christmas supper-parties, and booked bets ^vith 
them for next year's Newmarket first spring — as if such things 
as shipwreck, peril by sea, heeling over Royal Georges, lost Prc' 
8id<aU, with brilliant Irish comedians setting forth on their 
return to the land in which they had been so beloved and 
admired, never, never to reach the shore, were things that could 
not be. There were rosy-cheeked country lasses, going over to 
earn fabulous wages and marry impossibly rich husbands. There; 
were the oM people, who essayed this long journey on an element 
which ibey Knew only by sight, in answer to the kind son's 
noble letter, inviting tnem to come and share the pleasant home 
his sturdy arm had won far away in the fertile West. There 
were stout Irish labourers armed with pickaxe and spade, as 
with the best sword wherewith to open the great oyster of the 
world in these latter degenerate days. There was the dis- 
tinguished American family, with ever so many handsomel}' 
dressed, spoiled, affectionate children clustering round papa and 
mamma, and having their own way, after the manner of trans- 
atlantic youth. There were, in short, all the people who usually 
assemble when a good ship sets sail for the land of dear brother 
JoTKithan ; but the Count de Marolles there was not. 

No, decidedly, no Count de Marolles! There was a very 
quiet-looking Irish labourer, keeoing quite aloof from the rest 
of his kind, who were sufficiently noisy and more than suffi- 
ciently forcible in the idiomatic portions of their conversation. 
There was this very quiet Irishman, leaning on liis spade and 
pickaxe, and evidently bent on not going on board till the very 
last moment; and there was an elderly gentleman in a blacK 
coat, who looked rather Uke a Methodist parson, and who held a 
very small carpet-bag in his hand ; but there was no Count de 
Marolles ; and what's more, there was no Mr. Peters. 

This latter circumstance made Augustus Darley very uneasy ; 
but I regret to say that the Smasher wore, if anything, a look 
of triumph as the hands of the clocks about the quay pointed 
to three o'clock, and no Peters appeared. j^ 

** I knowe<l," he said, with etfusion — " I knowed that cove 
irasn't up to his busiuess. I wouldn't mindbettin' the goodwill of 
my httle crib in London agen sixpen'orth of coppers, tiiat he's a* 
atandin' at this very individual moment of time at a street-corner 
n mile off, makin' signs to one of the Liverpool police-officers." 

The gentleman iQ the black coat standing before them turned 



Mr. Peter9 arrests the Dead. 203 

rotmd on hearing this remark, and smiled — smiled very very 
faintly ; bnt he certainly did smile. The Smasher's blood, whicn 
was something like that of Lancaster, and distinguished for its 
tendency to mount, was up in a moment. 

" I hope you find my conversation amusin*, old gent," he said, 
with considerable asperity ; " I came down here on purpose to 
put you in spirits, on account of bein* grieved to see you always 
a-lookin' as if you'd just come home from your own funeral, and 
the undertaker was a-dunnin* you for the burial-fees." 

Gus trod heavily on his companion's foot as a friendly hint to 
him not to get up a demonstration ; and addressing the gentle- 
man, who appeared in no hurry to resent the Smasher's con- 
temptuous ammadversions, asked him when he thought the boat 
would start. 

" Not for five or ten minutes, I dare say," he answered. 
•* Look there ; is that a coffin they're bringing this way ? I'm 
rather short-sighted ; be good enough to tell me if it is a coffin?" 

The Smasher, who had the glance of an eagle, repUed that it 
decidedly was a coffin ; adding, with a growl, that he knowed 
somebooy as might be in it, and no harm done to society. 

The elderly gentleman took not the shghtest notice of thii 
gratuitous piece of information on the part of the left-handed 
gladiator; but suddenly busied himself with his fingers in the 
neighbourhood of his hmp white cravat. 

" Why, I'm blest," cried the Smasher, " if the old baby ainV 
at Peters 's game, a-talkin' to nobody upon his finders !" 

Nay, most distinguished professor of the noble art of self- 
defence, is not that assertion a httle premature? Talking on 
Ids fingers, certainly — looking at nobody, certainly; but for all 
that, talking to somebody, and to a somebody who is looking at 
liim; for, fiom the other side of the little crowd, the Irish 
labourer fixes his eyes intently on every movement of the grave 
elderly gentieman's fingers, as they run through four or five 
rapid words; and Gus Darley, perceiving this look, starts in 
amazement, for the eyes of the Irish labourer are the eyes oi 
Mr. Peters of the detective police. 

But neither the Smasher nor Gus is to notice Mr. Petem 
unless Mr. Peters notices them. It is so expressed in the note, 
which Mr. Darley has at that very moment in his waistcoat 
pocket. So Gus gives his companion a niulge, and directs his 
attention to the smock-frock and the slouched hat in wldch the 
detective has hidden himself^ with a hurried injunction to him to 
keep quiet. We are human at the best ; ay, even when we are 
relebrated for our ^nius in the muscular science, and our well- 
known blow of the left-handed postman's knock, or double 
auctioneer: and, if the sober truth must be told, the Smasher 
was sorry to recognize Mr. Peters in tha.t. Wtcq^kA ^gixV^. >S^^ 



2M The Trail of the Serpent. 

didut want the damb detective to arrest the Count de Marollc 
He had never read Coiiolanus, neither had he seen the Koma 
Mr. William Macready, in that character ; bnt, for all that, tl 
Smasher wanted to ^o home to the dearpnrliens of Dmry Lan 
and say to his astomshed admirers, ** Alone I £d it !" And 1 
here were Mr. Peters and the elderly stranger both entered f< 
the same event. 

While gloomy and vengefal thoughts, therefore, troubled tl 
maidy breast of the Vinegar- Yard gladiator, four men a] 
proacned, bearing on their shoulders the coffin which had e 
aroused the stranger's attention. They bore it on board tl 
steamer, and a few moments after a gentlemanly and cheerfii 
looking man, of about forty, stepped across the narrow platforn 
and occupied himself with a crowd of packages, which stood i 
a heap, apart from the rest of the luggage on the crowded dec] 

Again the elderly stranger's fingers were busy in the region < 
his cravat. The superficial observer would have merely thougl 
him very fidgety about the limp bit of muslin ; but this time tl 
fingers of Mr. Peters telegraphed an answer. 

" Gentlemen," said the stranger, addressing Mr. Darley an 
the Smasher in the most matter-of-fact manner, " you will I 
^ood enough to go on board that steamer with meP I amworl 
mg with Mr. Peters in this affair. Eemember, I am goiag \ 
Imerica by that vessel yonder, and you are my friends com 
^th me to see me off. ifow, gentlemen." 

He has no time to say any more, for the bell rings ; and tn 
last stragglers, the people who will enjoy the latest availabi 
moment on terra firman scramble on board ; amongst them th 
Smasher, Gus, and the stranger, who stick very closely together 

The coffin has been placed in the centre of the vessel, on th 
top of a pile of chests, and its gloomy black outjine is sharp! 
defined against the dear blue autumn sky. Kow there is 
general feeling amongst the passengers that the presence of thi 
coffin is a peculiar injury to them. 

It is unpleasant, certainly. From the very moment of it 
appearance amongst them a change has come over the spirits c 
every one of the "^avellers. They try to keep away from it, bn 
they try in vain ; there is a dismal fascination in the define* 
and ghastly shape, which all the rough wrappers that can b 
thrown over it will not conceal. They find their eyes wanderini 
to it, in preference even to watching receding Liverpool, whos 
steeples and tall chimneys are dipping down and down into th 
blue water, and will soon disappear altogether. They are inter 
ested in it in spite of themselves ; they ask questions of on 
another; they ask questions of the engineer, and of the steward 
and of tiie «aptainof the steamer, but can elicit notlung — excep 
that lying in that cofffin* no ^se to them, and yet bo very vei^ 



Mr. Peten arrestf the Dead. 20.") 

far away from them, there is an American gentlemun of some 
distinction, who, having died suddenly in JBngland, is being 
carried back to New York, to be bnried amongst his friends in 
that dty. The aggrieved passengers for the WcbsMngton think 
it very hard npon them that the American gentleman of distinc- 
lion — they remember that he t8 a gentleman of distinction, and 
modify their tone accordingly — conld not have been bnried in 
England like a reasonable being. The British dominions were 
not ^ood enough for Mm, they supposed. Other passengers, 
pushmg the question still ^rther, asK whether he couldn't have 
been t«£en home by some other vessel ; nay, whether indeed he 
ought not to have had a ship all to himself, instead of harrowing 
the feelings and pre3ring upon the spirits of £rst-class passen- 
gers. They look almost spitefolly, as they make these remarks, 
towards the shrouded comn, which, to their great aggravation, 
is not entirely shrouded by the wrappers about it. One comer 
has been left uncovered, revealing the stout rough oak ; for it is 
only a temporary coffin, and the gentleman of distinction will be 
put into somethmg better befitting his rank when he arrives at 
his destination. It is to be observed, and it is observed by 
many, that the cheerfml passenger in fashionable mourning, and 
with the last greatcoat which the inspiration of Saville Row has 
given to the London world thrown over his arm, hovers in a pro- 
tecting manner about the coffin, and evinces a fideHty wHch, but 
for his perfectly cheerful countenance and self-possessed manner, 
would be reaUy touching, towards the late American gentleman 
of distinction, whom he has for his only travelling companion. 

Now, though a great many questions had been asked on all 
sides, one question especially, namely, whether it — ^people always 
dropped their voices when they pronounced that smaU pronoun 
— ^whether it would not be put in the hold as soon as they got 
on board the WasTvingtony the answer to which question was an 
affirmative, and gave considerable satisfaction — except indeed to 
one moody old gentleman, who asked, " How about getting any 
little thing one happened to want on the joui3iey out of the 
hold ? " and was very properly snubbed for tne suggestion, and 
told that passengers had no business to want things out of the 
hold on the voyage ; and furthermore insulted by the liveliest of 
the lively travellers, who suggested, in an audible aside, that 
perhaps the old gentleman had only one clean shirt, and had put 
that at the bottom of his travelling chest, — ^now, "though, I say, 
BO many questions had been asked, no one had as yet presumed 
to address the cheerful-looking gentleman convoying the Ameri- 
can of distinction home to his friends, though this very gentle- 
man might, after all, be naturally supposed to know more than 
anybody else about the subject. He was smoking a ci^ar, and 
thdugh he kept very dose to the coffin^ he ^qa q.^csv& w^ ^s^ 



296 The Trail of the Serpent. 

person on board who did not look at it, but kept his gaze fixed 
on the fading town of Liverpool. The Smasher, Gns, and Mr. 
Peters's unknown ally stood very close to this gentleman, while 
the detective himself leant over the side of the vessel, near to, 
though a little apart from, the Irish labourers and rosy-cheeked 
country girls, who, as steerage passengers, very properly herded 
together, an<^. did not attempt to conteminate by tneir presence 
the minds or the garments of those superior beings who were to 
occupy state-cabins six feet long by three feet wide, and to have 
green i)eas and new milk from the cow all liie way out. Pre- 
sently, Hie elderly gentleman of rather shabby-genteel but clerical 
appearance, who Imd so briefly introduced himself to Gus and 
the Smasher, made some remarks about the town of Liverpool 
to the cheerfal friend of the late distinguished American. 

The cheerful friend took his cigar out of his mouth, smiled, 
and said, " Yes ; it's a thriving town, a small London, really — 
the metropolis in miniature." 

"You know Liverpool very wellP" asked the Smasher's 
companion. 

" Ko, not very weU ; in point of fact, I know very little of 
England at all. My visit has been a brief one." 

He is evidently an American from this remark, though there 
is very little of brother Jonathan in his manner. 

" Your visit has been a brief one ? Indeed. And it has had 
a very melancholy termination, I regret to perceive," said the 
persevering stranger, on whose every word the Smasher and 
Mr. Darley hung respectfully. 

"A very melancholy termination," replied the gentleman, 
with the sweetest smile. " My poor friend had hoped to return 
to the bosom of his family, and delight them many an evening 
round the cheerfal hearth by the recital of his adventures in, 
and impressions of, the mother country. You cannot imagine," 
he contmued, speaking very slowly, and as he spoke, allowing 
his eyes to wander from the stranger to the Smasher, and from 
the Smasher to Gus, with a glance which, if anything, had the 
slightest shade of anxiety in it; "you cannot imagine the 
interest we on the other side of the Atlantic take in everything 
that occurs in the mother country. We may be great over 
there — ^we may be rich over there — ^we may be universally beloved 
and respected over there, — ^but I doubt — ^I really, after all, 
doubt," he said sentimentally, " whether we are truly happy. 
We sigh for the wings of a dove, or to speak practically, for our 
travelujig expenses, that we may come over here and be at rest." 

** And yet I conclude it was the especial wish of your late 
friend to be buried over there P" asked tne stranger. 

** It was — ^his dying wish." 

"And the melancholy duty of complying with that wish 



Mr. Peters arrests the Dead, 207 

ievolved on youP" said the stranger, with a degree of pTierile 
curiosity and frivolous interest in an affair entirely irrelevant to 
the matter in hand which bewildered Gus, and at which th* 
Smasher palpably turned up his nose ; muttering to himself at 
the same time that the forrin swell would have time to get 
to America while they was a-palaverin* and a-jawin' this 'ere 
humbug. 

"Yes, it devolved on me," replied the cheerful gentleman, 
offering his cigar-case to the three friends, who declined th« 
proffered weeds. ** We were connections ; his mother's half- 
sister married my second cousin — not very nearly connected 
certainly, but extremely attached to each other. It will be a 
melancholy satisfaction to his poor widow to see his ashoa 
entombed upon his native shore, and the thought of that repay ■ 
me threefold for anything I may suffer." 

He looked altogether far too airy and charming a creature to 
suffer very much; but the stranger bowed gravely, and Gus, 
looking towards the prow of the vessel, perceived the earnest 
eyes of Mr. Peters attentively fixed on the little group. 

As to the Smasher, he was so utterly disgusted with the 
stranger's manner of doing business, that he abandoned himself 
to his own thoughts and hummed a tune — the tune appertaining 
to what is generally called a comic song, being the last passages 
in the life of a humble and unfortunate member of the working 
classes as related by himself. 

While talking to the cheerful gentleman on this very melan- 
choly subject, the stranger from Liverpool happened to get quit* 
close to the coffin, and, with an admirable freedom from prejudice 
which astonished the other passengers standing near, rested his 
hand carelessly on the stout oaken lid, just at that comer where 
the canvas left it exposed. It was a most speaking proof of the 
almost overstrained feeling of devotion possessed by the cheer- 
ful gentleman towards his late friend that this tnfling action 
seemed to disturb him ; his eyes wandered uneasily towards the 
stranger's black-gloved hand, and at last, when, m absence of 
mind, the stranger actually drew the heavy covering completely 
over this comer of the coffin, his uneasiness reached a climax, 
and drawing the dingy drapery hurriedly back, he rearranged it 
in its old fashion. 

** Don't you wish the coffin to be entirely covered?" asked the 
stranger quietly. 

** Yes — no ; that is," said the cheerful gentleman, with some 
embarrassment in liis tone, " that is — I — you see there is some- 
thing of profanitv in a stranger's hand approaching the remains 
of those WB love. 

" Suppose, then," said his interlocutor, " we take a turn about 
the deck ? This neighbourhood must be very \)aM\3i ta ^«q^!* 



298 The Trail of the Serpent. 

" Oq the contrary," replied the cheerful gentleman, "yon wiD 
think me, I dare say, a very singnlar person, hut I prefer remain- 
ing by him to the last. The coffin will be put m the hold ag 
Boon as we got on board the Washington ; then my dnty will 
have been accomplished and my mind will be at rest. You go 
to New York with ns P" he asked. 

" I shall have that pleasure," replied the stranger. 

" And your friend — ^your sporting friend ?" asked the gentle- 
man, witn a rather supercihous glance at the many-coloured 
raiment and mottled-soap complexion of the Smasher, who was 
still singing sotto voce the above-mentioned melody, with his 
arms folded on the rail of the bench on which he was seated, 
and his chin resting moodily on his coat-sleeves. 

"No," replied the stranger; "my friends, I regret to say, 
leave me as soon as we get on board." 

In a few minutes more they reached the side of the brave 
ship, which, from the Liverpool quay, had looked a white- 
winged speck not a bit too big for Queen Mab ; but which was, 
oh, such a Leviathan of a vessel when you stood just under 
her, and had to go up her side by means of a ladder — which 
ladder seemed to be subject to shivering fits, and struck terror 
into the nervous lady and the bald-headed parrot. 

All the passengers, except the cheerful gentleman with the 
coffin and the stranger — with Gus and the Smasher and Mr. 
Peters loitering in the background — seemed bent on getting 
up each before the other, and considerably increased the con- 
fusion by evincing this wish in a candid but not conciliating 
manner, showing a degree of ill-feeling which was much in- 
creased by the passengers that had not got on board looking 
daggers at the passengers that had got on board, and seemed 
settled quite comfortably high and <fiy upon the stately deck. 
At last, however, every one but the aforesaid group had ascended 
the ladder. Some stout sailors were preparing great ropes 
wherewith to haul up the coffin, and the cheerful gentleman 
was busily directing them, when the captain of the steamer 
said to the stranger from Liverpool, as he loitered at the bottom 
of the ladder, with Mr. Peters at his elbow, — " Now then, sir, if 
you're for the WasJiington, quick's the word. We're off as 
soon as ever they've got that job over," pointing to the coffin. 
The stranger from Liverpool, instead of complying with this 
very natural request, whispered a few words into the ear of the 
captain, who looked very grave on hearing them, and then, 
advancing to the cheerful gentleman, who was very anxious and 
very imeasy about the manner in which the coffin was to be 
hauled up the side of the vessel, he laid a heavy hand upon his 
shoulder, and said, — " I want the lid of that coffin taken off 
before those men haul it up." 



Mr, Peters arrests the Dead. 299 

SacK a change came over the face of the cheerfol gentlemaii 
as only comes over the face of a man who knows that he ia 
playing a desperate game, and knows as snrely that he has lost 
it. "My good sir," he said, "yon 're mad. Sfot for the Queen 
of England wonld I see that cofl^-Hd nnscrewed." 

" I don't think it will give ns so mnch tronble as that," said 
the otherqnietly. " I very much doubt it's being screwed down 
at all. You were greatly alarmed just now, lest the person 
within should be smothered. You were terribly frightened 
when I drew the heavy canvas over those incisions in the oak," 
he added, pointing to the lid, in the comer of which two or throe 
cracks were apparent to the close observer. 

" Good Heavens ! the man is mad !" cried the gentleman, 
whose manner had entirely lost its airiness. " The man is evi- 
dently a maniac! This is too dreadful! Is the sanctity of 
death to be profaned in this manner P Are we to cross the 
Atlantic in the company of a madman P " 

" You are not to cross the Atlantic at all just yet," said the 
Liverpool stranger. " The man is not mad, I assure you, but 
he is one of the principal members of the Liverpool detective 
police-force, and is empowered to arrest a person who is sup- 
posed to be on board this boat. There is only one place m 
which that person can be concealed. Hero is my warrant to 
arrest Jabez North, alias Rajnnond Marolles, alias the Count 
de Marolles. I know as certainly as that I myself stand here 
that he lies hidden in that coffin, and I desire that the h'd may 
be removed. If I am mistaken, it can be' immediately replaced, 
and I shall be ready to render you my most fervent apologies 
for having profaned the repose of the dead. Now, Peters ! " 

The dumb detective went to one end of the coffin, while 
his colleague stood at the other. The Liverpool officer was 
correct in his supposition. The lid was only secured by two or 
three long stout nails, and gave way in three minutes. The two 
detectives lifted it off the coffin — and there, hot, flushed, and 
panting, half-suffocated, with desperation in his wicked bluo 
eyes, his teeth locked in furious rage at his utter powerlcssncHH 
to escape from the grasp of his pursuers— there, run to earth at 
last, lay the accomplished Eajrmond, Count de Marolles I 

They put the handcuffs on him before they lifted him out 
of the coffin, the Smasher assisting. Years after, when the 
Smasher grew to be an older and graver man, he used to tell to 
admiring and awe-stricken customers the story of this arrest. 
But it is to be observed that his memory on these occasions was 
wont to play him false, for he omitted to mention either the 
Liverpool detective or our good friend Mr. Peters as taking any 
part in the capture ; but described the whole affair as conducted 
Dj himself alone^ with an incalculable imm\ict ciS. ** \ va.-s^C ^isi^ 



800 The Trail of the Serpent. 

**80 then I tliinks," and "well, wliat do I do nextP" and othef 
phrases of the same description. 

The Count de Marolles, with tumbled hair, and a white facje 
and blue hps, sitting handcuffed upon the bench of the steamer 
between the Liverpool detective and Mr. Peters, steaming back 
to Liverpool, was a sight not good to look upon. The cheerful 
gentleman sat with the Smasher and Mr. Darley, who had been 
told to keep an eye upon him, and who — ^the Smasher especially 
— kept both eyes upon him with a wilL 

Throughout the httle voyage there were no words spoken bnt 
these from the Liverpool detective, as he first put the fetters on 
the white and slender wrists of his prisoner : " Monsieur de 
Marolles," he said, " youVe tried this little game once before. 
This is the second occasion, I understand, on which youVe done 
a sham die. I*d have you beware of the third time. According 
to iuperstitions people, it's generally fatal** 

CHAPTER VL 

THE END OP THE DARK EGAD. 

Once more Slopperton-on-the-Sloshy rang with a subject dis- 
missed from the public mind eight years ago, and now revived 
with a great deal more excitement and discussion than ever. 
That subject was, the murder of Mr. Montague Harding. All 
Slopperton made itself into one voice, and spoke but upon one 
theme — the pending trial of another man for that very crime of 
which Richard Marwood had been found guilty years ago — 
Richard, who, according to report, had died in an attempt to 
escape from the county asylum. 

Very Httle was known of the criminal, but* a great deal was 
conjectured ; a great deal more was invented ; and ultimately, 
most conflicting reports were spread abroad by the citizens of 
Slopperton, every one of whom had his particular account of 
the seizure of De Marolles, and every one of whom stood to his 
view of the case with a pertinacity and fortitude worthy of a 
better cause. Thus, if you went into High Street, entering 
that thoroughfare from the Market-place, you would hear how 
this De Marolles was a French nobleman, who had crossed the 
Channel in an open boat on the night of the murder, walked 
from Dover to Slopperton — (not above two hundred miles bj 
the shortest cut) — and gone back to Calais in the same manner. 
If, staggered by the slight discrepancies of time and place in 
this account of the transaction, you -pursued your inquiries a 
little further down the same street, yon would very likely be 
lold that De Marolles was no Frenchman at all, but the son of 
a clergvman in the next county, whose unfortunate mother waa 
tt that momex\t on her knees in the throne-room at Bucking- 



The End of tie Dark Boad. 801 

ham Palace, Boliciting his pardon on account of Jiis connection 
with the clerical interest. If this story struck you as more 
romantic than probable, you had only to turn the comer into 
Little Market Street — (rather a low neighbourhood, and chiefly 
inhabited by butchers and the tripe and cow-heel trade) — and 
you might sup full of horrors, the denizens of this locahty 
labouring under the fixed conviction that the prisoner the^ 
lying in Slopperton gaol was neither more nor less than a dis- 
tinguished burglar, long the scourge of the united kingdoms of 
Great Britain and Ireland, and guilty of outrages and murders 
innumerable. 

There were others who confined themselves to animated and 
detailed descriptions of the attempted escape and capture of 
the accused. These congregated at street-corners, and (iispute<l 
and gesticulated in little groups, one man often dropping back 
i'rom his companions, and taking a wide berth on the pavement, 
to give his particular story the benefit of illustrative action. 
Some stories told how the prisoner had got half-way to America 
concealed in the paddle wheel of a screw steamer ; others gave 
an animated account of his having been found hidden in 
the comer of the engine-room, where he had lain concealed for 
fourteen days without either bite or sup. Others told you he 
had been furled up in the foretopsail of an American man-of- 
war ; others related how he had made the passage in the main- 
top of the same vessel, only descending in the 4ead of the night 
for his meals, and paying the captain of the sliip a quarter of a 
million of money lor the accommodation. As to the sums of 
money he had embezzled in his capacity of banker, they grew 
with every hour ; till at last Slopperton turned up its nose at 
anything under a billion for the sum total of his plunder. 

The assizes were looked forward to with such eager expectation 
and interest as never had been felt about any other assizes 
within the memory of Hving Slopperton ; and the judges and 
oarristers on this circuit were the envy of judges and barristers 
on other circuits, who said bitterly, that no such case ever came 
across their way, and that it was like Prius Q.C.'s luck to be 
counsel for the prosecution in such a trial ; and that if Nisi, 
whom the Count de MaroUes had intrusted with his defence, 
didn't get him ofi", he. Nisi, deserved to be hung in Ueu of his client. 

It seemed a strange and awful instance of retributive justice 
that Eiaymond Marolles, having been taken in his endeavour to 
escape in the autumn of the year, had to await the spring 
assizes of the following year for his trial, and had, therefore, to 
drag out even a longer period in his solitary cell than Bichard 
Uarwood, the innocent victim of circumstantial evidence, had 
ione years before. 

Who shall dare to enter this man's cell? "Who iAv?!! ^kjcs,^ Xfe 



802 The Trail of the Serjpent. 

look iuto this hardened heart ? Who shall follow tho dark and 
terrible speculations of this perverted intellect ? 

At last the time, so welcome to the &ee citizens of Sloppertoii, 
and so very unwelcome to some of the denizens in the gaol, who 
preferred awaiting their trial in that retreat to crossing the 
briny ocean for an unlimited period as the issue of that trial — 
at last, the assize time came round once more. Once more the 
tip-top Slopperton hotels ware bewilderingly gay with elegant 
young hamsters and grave grey-headed judges. Once moi^e the 
criminal court was one vast sea of human heads, rising wave on 
wave to the very roof; and once more every eager eye was 
turned towards the dock in which stood the elegant and accom- 
plished Raymond, Count de Marolles, alias Jabez North, some- 
time pauper of the Slopperton-on-the-Sloshy Union, afterwards 
usher in tlie academy ol Dr. Tappenden, charged witii the wilful 
murder of Montague Harding, also of Slopperton, eight years 
before. 

The first point the counsel for the prosecution endeavoured 
to prove to tne minds of the jury was the identity of Eaymond 
de Marolles, the Parisian, with Jabez North, the pauper school- 
boy. This hinged chiefly upon his power to disprove the sup- 
posed death of Jabez North, m which all Slopperton had hitherto 
firmly believed. Dr. Tappenden had stood by his usher's corpse. 
How, then, could that usher be alive and before the Slopperton 
jury to-day P But there were plenty to certify that here he was 
^1 the flesh — this very Jabez North, whom so many people re- 
membered, and had been in tho habit of seeing, eight years ago. 
They were ready to identify him, in spite of his dark hair and 
eyebrows. On the other hand, there were some who had seen the 
iJody of the suicide, found by Peters the detective, on the heath 
outside Slopperton ; and these were as ready to declare t^iat the 
afore-mentioned body was the body of Jabez North, the usher to 
Dr. Tappenden, and none other. But when a rough-looking man, 
with a mangy fur cap in his hand, and two greasy locS^.of hair 
carefully twisted into limp curls on either side of his swarthy 
fa/Ce, which curls were known to his poetically and figuratively- 
disposed friends as Newgate knockers — when this man, who 
ffave his name to the jury as Slithery Bill — or, seeing the jury 
didn't approve of this cognomen, Bill Withers, if they liked it 
better — was called into the witness-box, his evidence, sulkily and 
rather despondingly gi^en, as from one who says, "It may 6e 
my turn next," threw quite a new light upon the subject. 

Bill Withers was politely asked if he remembered the summei 
of 18 — . Yes; Mr. Witners could remember the siunmer o* 
18 — ; was out of work that summer, and made the marginal 
remark that " them as couldn't Hve might starve or steal, for all 
Slopperton folks cared." 



The End of the Barh Eoad. 30? 

Was again politely asked if lie remembered doing one par* 
ticular job of work that summer. 

Did remember it — ^made the marginal remark, ** and it was a 
Jolly queer dodge as ever a cove had a hand in." 

Was asked to be good enough to state what the particular job 
was. 

Assented to the request with a polite nod of the head, -and 
proceeded to smooth his Newgate knockers, and fold his arms 
on the ledge of the witness-box prior to stating his case ; then 
cleared his throat, and commenced discursively, thus, — 

** Vy, it vas as this 'ere — ^I vas out of work. I does up small 
gent's gardens in the spring, and tidies and veeds and rakes and 
hoes *em a bit, back and front, vhen I can get it to do, vich 
ain't often ; and bein' out of vork, and old Mother Thingamy, 
down Blind Peter, she ses to me, vich she vas a vicked old 'ag, 
she ses to me, * IVe got a iob for them as asks no questions; and 
don't vant to be told no lies ;* by vich remark, and the vay of 
her altogether, I knowed she veren't up to no good; so I ses^ 

* You looks here, mother ; if it's a job a respectable young man, 
vot's out o* vork, and ain't had a bite or sup since the day afore 
yesterday, can do vith a clear conscience, I'll do itr— if it ain't, 
vy I von't. There !' " Having recorded which heroic declara- 
tion, Mr. William Withers wiped his mouth ^vith the back of 
his hand, and looked round the court, as much as to say, " Let 
Slopperton be proud of such a citizen." 

" * Don't you go to flurry your tender constitution and do your- 
self a unrecoverable injury,' the old cat made reply ; * it's a job 
as the parson of the parish might do, if he'd got a truck.' * A 
truck?* I ses; *is it movin' boxes you're making this 'ere 
palaver about P' * Never you mind vether it's boxes or vether 
it ain't ; vill you do it P' she ses ; * vill you do it, and put a 
sov^ring in your pocket, and never go for to split, unless you 
\ i» it tl^^recious throat of yours sHt some fine evenin' P' " 

•* Anii^^u consented to do what she required of youP" sug^ 
gested the counsel. 

" Yell, I don't know about that," replied Mr. Withers, " but 
I undertook the job. * So,' ses she, that's the old 'un, she ses, 

* you bring a truck down by that there broken buildin' ground 
at the back of Blind Peter at ten o'clock to-night, and you keep 
yourself quiet tiU you hears a vlustle ; ven you hears a vhistle,' 
she ses, * bring your truck around agin our front door. This 
here's all you*ve got to do,' she ses, * besides keepin' your tongue 
between your teeth.' * All right,* I ses, and off I goes to see if 
there was any cove as would trust me with a truck agen the 
evenin'. VeD, I finds the cove, vich, seern' I wanted it oad, he 
stood out for a bob and a tanner for the loan of it." 

" Perhaps the jury would wifih to be told what sum of moner-* 



804 The Trail of the Serpent. 

I conclude it is money — a bob and a tanner represent P" said 
the coTinseL 

" They must be a jolly ignorant lot, then, anyways," replied 
Mr. Withers, with more candour than circumlocution. ** Any 
infant knows eighteenpence ven it's showed him." 

"Oh, a bob and a tanner are eighteenpence? Very good," 
said the counsel, encouragingly ; " pray go on, Mr. Withers.*' 

" Veil, ten o'clock come, anii veren't it a precious stormy night, 
that's all; and there I was a-vaitin* a-sittin' on this blessed 
truck at the back of BUnd Peter, vich vos my directions. At 
last the vhistle come, and a precious cautious vhistle it vas too, 
as soft as a niteingel vot's pajdn' its addresses to another 
niteingel ; and round I goes to the front, as vos my directions. 
There, agen' her door, stands the old 'ag, and agen her stands a 
young man in an old ragged pair of trousis an' a shirt. Lookiu* 
nim hard in the face, who does I see but Jim, the old un's 
grandson; so I ses, * Jim I* friendly hke, but he makes no reply ; 
and then the old un ses, * Lend this young gent a 'and 'ere, vill 
yer ? ' So in I goes, and there on the bed I sees something rolled 
np very careful m a old counterpane. It giv' me a turn lie, and 
I didn't much like the looks of it ; but I ses nothink ; and then 
the young man, Jim, as I thinks, ses, * Lend us a hand with 
this 'ere, vill yer?* and it giv'd me another turn like, for 
though it's Jim's face, somehow it ain't quite Jim's voice — more 
genteel and fine like ; but I goes up to the bed, and I takes hold of 
von end of vot lays there ; and then I gets turn number three — 
for I find my suspicions was correct — it was a dead body I" 

"A dead body?" ^ 

" Yes ; but wfio's it vos there vos no knowin*, it vos wrapped 
up in that manner. But I feels myself turn dreadful vhite, and 
I ses, * If this ere's anythink wrong, I vashes my hands ov it, 
and you may do your dirty vork yourself.' I hadn't got the 
vords out afore this 'ere young man, as I thought at first vos 
Jim, caught me by the throat sudden, and threw me down on 
my knee. I ain't a baby ; but, lor*, I vos nothink in his grasp, 
though his hand vos as vite and as deliket as a young lady's. 
•Now, you just look 'ere,' he says; and I looked, as veil as I 
'iould, vith my eyes a-startin' out ov of my head in cosekence of 
Dein* just upon the choke, 'you see vot this is,* and vith his 
left hand he takes a pistol out ov his pocket ; * you refuse to do 
vot ve vant done, or you go for to be noisy or in any vay ill- 
con wenient, and it's tne last time as ever you'll have the chance 
ov so doing. Get up,* he says, as if I vos a dog ; and I gets up, 
and I agrees to do vot tie vants, for there vas that there devil 
in that young man's hye, that I began to think it vos best not 
to go agen him." 

Here Mr. Withers paused for refreshment after his exertjou 



fks End of ike Dark Scad. M5 

Lad blew bis nose Yesrj deliberately on a bandkerchief wliicb, 
from its dilapidated condition, resembled a red cotton cabbage* 
net. Silence reigned throngbont tbe crowded court, broken 
only by tbe scratcbing of tbe pen witb wbicb tbe counsel for tb« 
defence was i^ing notes of tbe evidence, and tbe fluttering o( 
tbe leaves of tbe reporters' pocket-books, as tbey tbrew off page 
after page of flimsy paper. 

Tbe prisoner at tbe bar looked straigbt before bim; tbe 
firmly-compressed lips bad never once quivered, tbe golden 
fringed eyelasbes bad never drooped. 

"Can you tell me," said the coimsel for tbe prosecution, 
** wbetber you bave ever, since tbat nigbt, seen tbis young man, 
wbo so closely resembled your old friend, Jim P '* 

"Never seen bim since, to my knowledge'* — there was a flutter 
in tbe crowded court, as if every spectator bad simultaneously 
drawn a long breath — " till to-day." 

" TiU to-day?" said the counsel. This timeit was more than a flut« 
ter, it was a subdued murmur tbat ran through the listening crowd 
•* Be good enough to say if you can see him at this present 
moment." 

** I can," replied Mr. Withers. " That's bim 1 or my namt 
ain't vot I've teen led to believe it is." And he pointed witb a 
dirty but decided finger at tbe prisoner at the bar. 

The prisoner slightly elevated bis arched eyebrows super- 
ciliously, as if be would say, " Tbis is a pretty sort of witnesi 
to hang a man of my standing." 

"Be so good as to continue your story," said the counsel. 
" Veil, 1 does vot he tells me, and I lays tbV body, vith bit 
'elp, on the truck. * Now,' be ses, * fonow this 'ere old vomav 
and do eveiytbink vot she tells yon, or you'll And it conrnderuhlf 
vorse for your friture 'appiness ;' vitb vicb be slams tba doof 
upon me, the old nn, and Uie truck, and I sees no more of 'ifn« 
Yell, I follows tbe old nn through a lot o* lanes and back sluini^ 
till ve leaves tbe town behind, and gets right out njxm tbe 'mih } 
and ve crosses over tbe 'eatb, till ve comes to rt^^re ii*» jyrw'/unm 
lonely, yet tbe hedge of the pathway like ; and 'ere she tells w» 
as ve're to leave tbe body, and 'ere ve shifts it f/ff tbe irwik nu(l 
lays it down upon the grass, vicb it vas a-rainin' 'eav^ms 'ard* 
and a-tbunderin' and a^Eghtnin' like von oV;I/X',k, ' A ut\ itffW, 
she 868, *vot you've grA,U> do is to go l/a/k fr(/m y\i*'rtm ytni 
come from, and lose no time aVx/ut it; and f^»k/j imA'wm,' »f»^ ^%f 
*if ever you speaks or jabbers aly/nt thi» *f'.T*^ )mn\uty%%, )f/ll \m 
tbe Old of your jabberin* in tbis world,* vith vifZ/h pSus l/i/»kj< Mt 
me Hke a old vitch as she vos, and fff^ftfM vitb ht%f nU'ifttiv MtA 
dawn tbe rood. Ho I valks mr chalks, )im% I (Ift^f^'i vnfk Vm 
Vfrj har, and presently T sees tU old 'ft§MH|i|tVi«^ NAn^iCuik 



806 The Trail of the Serpeni, 

the town as fast as ever she could tear. ' Ho ! * I ses, 'yoti ftfB 
a nice lot, you are ; but I'll see who's dead, in spite of yon.' 
*!lo I crawls up to vere ve'd left the body, and there it vos sure 
«nnT, but all uncovered now, the face a-starin' up at the black 
bky, and it vos dressed, as far as I could make out, quite like a 
gentleman, all in black, but it vos so jolly dark I couldn't see 
the face, vhen all of a sudden, vhile I vos a-kneelin' down and 
lookin' at it, there comes von of the longest flashes of lightnin' 
as I ever remember, and in the blue light I sees the face plainer 
than I could have seen it in the day. I thought I should have 
fell down all of a-heap. It vos Jim ! Jim hisse]f, as I knowed 
as well as I ever knowed myself, dead at my feet 1 My first 
thought vos as how that young man as vos so like Jim had 
murdered him ; but there vom't no marks of wiolence novheres 
about the body. Now, I hadn't in my own mind any doubts as 
how it vos Jim ; but still, I ses to myself, I ses, * Everythink 
seems topsy-turvy like this night, so I'll be sure ;' so I takes up 
his arm, and turns up his coat-sleeve. Now, vy I does this is 
this 'ere : there vos a young voman Jim vos uncommon fond ov, 
vhich her name vos Bess, &ough he and many more called her, 
for short, Sillikens : and von day vhen me and Jim vos at a 
public, ve happened to fall in vith a sailor, vot ve'd both 
knowed afore ne vent to sea. So he vos a-tellin* of us his 
adventures and such-like, and then he said promiscus, ' I'll show 
you somethin' pretty ; ' and sure enuflT, he slipped up the sleeve 
ov his Gamsey, and there, all over his arm, vos all inanner ov 
sort ov picters done vith gunpowder, such as ankers, and £ule 
Britannias, and ships in full sail on the backs of flyin' alli- 
gators. So Jim takes quite a fancy to this 'ere, and he ses, 

* I vish, Joe (the sailor's name bein' Joe), I vish, Joe, as how 
.you'd do me my young voman's name and a wreath of roses on 
iny arm, like that there.' Joe ses, ' And so I vill, and velcome.' 
And sure enuff, a veek or two artervards, Jim comes to me vith 
his arm like a picter-book, and Bess as large as life just above 
the elber-joint. So I turns up his coat-sleeve, and vaits for a 
flash ov lightnin'. I hasn't to vait long, and there I reads, 

* B.E.S.S.' * There ain't no doubt now,' I ses, * this 'ore's Jim, 
and there's some willany or other in it» vot I ain't up to.'" 

" Very good," said the counsel ; " we may want you again by- 
and-by, I think, Mr. Withers; bat for the present youmay retire." 

The next witness called was Dr. Tappenden, who related the 
circumstances of the admission of Jabez North into his house- 
hold, the high character he had from the Board of the Slop- 
perton Union, and the confidence deposed in him. 

"You placed great trust, then, in this person?" asked the 
eonnsel for the prosecution. 

^The most implicit trust," replied th« schoolmaster; *'jM 



The Mnd of the Bark Eoad. 807 

mncli 60» that lie was freauentlj employed by me to collect 
Bubscriptions for a public cnarity of wnicn I was the treasurer 
— the Slop^erton Orphan Asylum. I think it only right to 
inention tms, as on one occasion it was the cause of his calling 
npon the unfortunate gentleman who was murdered." 

"Indeed I Will you be so good as to relate the drcum- 
stance P" 

• ** I think it was about three days before the murder, when, 
one morning, at a little before twelve o'clock — ^that being the 
time at which my pupils are dismissed from their studies lor an 
hour's recreation — I said to him, * Mr. North, I should like you 
to caU Bpon this Indian gentleman, who is staying with Mrs. 
Marwood, and whose wealth is so much talked of " 

" Pardon me. You said, * whose wealth is so much talked 
of.* Can y ou swear to having made that remark P" 

•* I can.^' 

** Pray continue," said the counsel. 

***I should like you,* I said, *to call upon this Mr. Harding, 
and solicit his aid for the Orphan Asylum; we are sadly m 
want of funds. I know. North, your heart is in the work, and 
you will plead the cause of the orphans successfully. You have 
an hour before dinner ; it is some distance to the Black Mill, 
but you can walk fast there and back.' He went accordingly, 
and on his return brought a five-pound note, which Mr. Harding 
had given him." 

Dr. Tappenden proceeded to describe the circumstance of the 
death of the little boy in the usher's apartment, on the very 
night of the murder. One of the servants was examined, who 
slept on the same fioor as North, and who said she had heard 
strange noises in his room that night, but had attributed th« 
noises to the fact of the usher sitSng up to attend upon the 
invalid. She was asked what were the noises she had heard. 

" I heard some one open the windowj and shut it a long while 
after.*' 

"How long do you imagine the interval to have been between 
the opening and shutting of the window P" asked the counsel. 

" About two hours," sne replied, " as far as I could guess." 

The next witness for the prosecution was the old servant, 
Martha. 

" Can you'remember ever having seen the prisoner at the bar? " 

'Ihe aid woman put on her spectacles, and steadfastljr regarded 
the elegant Monsieur de MaroUes, or Jabez North, as his enemies 
insisted on calling him. After a very deliberate inspection of 
that gentleman's personal advantages, rather trying to the feel- 
ings of the spectators, Mrs. Martha J ones said, rather obscurely — 

" He had hght hair then." 

^'He had light hair then/ You meani I conclude«" said the 



ft08 Tks Trail of the Serpent. 

counsel, ** that at the time of jonr first seeing the prisoner, bi 
hair was of a different colour irom what it is now. Snpposin 
that he had dyed his hair, as is not an uncommon practice^ ca 
you swear that you have seen him before to-day P" 

" I can." 

** On what occasion?" asked the counsel. 

** Three days before the murder of my mistress's poor brothej 
I opened the gate for him. He was very civil-spoKen, and ad 
mired the gamenvery much, and asked me if he might loo 
about it a httle." 

" He asked you to allow him to look about the garden? Fra 
was this as he went in, or as he went out ?" 

" It was when I let him out." 

** And how long did he stay with Mr. Harding?" 

** Not more than ten minutes. Mr. Harding was in his bee 
room ; he had a cabinet in his bedroom in which he kept papei 
and money, and he used to transact all his business tnere, an 
sometimes would be there tiU dinner-time." 

« Did the prisoner see him in his bedroom P" 

** He did. I showed him upstairs myself." 

**Was anybody in the bedtoom with Mr. Harding when h 
saw the prisoner?" 

" Only his coloured servant : he was always with him." 

"And when you showed the prisoner out, he asked to I 
allowed to look at the garden ? Was he long looking about P" 

" Not more than five minutes. He looked more at the hous 
than the garden. I noticed him looking at Mr. Harding's wii 
dow, which is on the first fioor ; he took particular notice of 
very fine creeper that grows under the window." 

" Was the window, on the night of the murder, fastened, c 
not?" 

" It never was fastened. Mr. Harding always slept with hi 
window a little way open." 

After Martha had been dismissed from the witness-box, th 
old servant of Mr. Harding, the Lascar, who had been foun 
living with a gentleman in London, was duly sworn, prior t 
being examined. 

He remembered the prisoner at the bar, but made the same n 
mark as Martha had done, about the change in colour of his har 

" You were in the room with your late master when the pr 
Boner called upon him?" asked the counsel 

" I was." 

" Will you state what passed between the prisoner and yon 
master?" 

" It is scarcely- in my power to do so. At that time I undei 
stood no English. My master was seated at his cabinet, lookin 
ever papexB and accounta. I fieuicy Hie prisoner asked him fc 



The End of the Dark Boad. 809 

monej. He showed him papers both printed and written. Mv 
master opened a pocket-book filled with notes, the pocket-book 
atterwaros fonnd on his nephew, and gave the prisoner a bank 
note. The prisoner appeared to make a good impression on my late 
master, who talked to him in a very cordial manner. As he was 
leaving the room, the prisoner made some remark abont me. and 
I thought from the tone of his voice, he was asking a question." 

** Yon thought he was asking a question P " 

"Yes. In Qie Hindostanee language we have no interrogative 
form of speech, we depend entirely on the inflexion of the voice ; 
our ears are therefore more acute than an Englishman's. I am 
certain he asked my master some questions about me.*' 

" And your master P " 

^ After replying to him, turned to me, and said, ' I am telling 
this gentleman what a faithfal fellow you are, Mujeebez, ana 
how you always sleep in my dressing-room.'" 

** You remember nothing more P" 

" Nothing more." 

The Indian's deposition, taken in the hospital at the time of 
the trial of Richard Marwood, was then read over to him. He 
certified to the truth of this deposition, and left the witness-box. 

The landlord of the Bargeman's Delight, Mr. Darley, and Mr. 
Peters (the latter by an mterpreter), were examined, and the 
story of the quarrel and the lost Indian coin was elicited, making 
considerable mipression on the jury. 

There was only one more witness for the crown, and this was a 
young man, a chemist, who had been an apprentice at the time of 
the supposed death of Jabez North, and who had sold to him a 
few days before that supposed suicide the materials for a hair-dye. 

The counsel for the prosecution then summed up. 

It is not for us to follow him through the twistings and wind- 
ings of a very complicated mass of evidence; he had to prove 
the identity of Jabez North with the prisoner at the bar, and he 
had to prove that Jabez North was the murderer of Mr. Mon- 
tague Harding. To the mind of every spectator in that crowded 
court he succeeded in proving both. 

In vain the prisoner's counsel examined and cross-examined 
the witnesses. 

The witnesses for the defence were few. A Frenchman, who 
represented himself as a OhevaHer of the Legion of Honour, 
failed signally in an endeavour to prove an alibi, and considerably 
damaged the defence. Other witnesses appeared, who swore to 
having known the prisoner in Paris the year of the murder. 
They could not say they had seen him durmg the November of 
that year — ^it might have been earlier, it might have been later. 
On being cross-examined, they broke down ignominiously, and 
ticknowledged that it miffht not have b^Cix^ \JaaX. -^^-^ ^ "^« "^-^ 



810 The Trail of tie Serpeni. 

they had known him in Paris ahout that period. They had 
always believed him to be a Frenchman. ^ They had always 
understood that his father fell at Waterloo, in the ranks of tho 
Old Guard. On cross-examination they all owned to having 
heard him at divers periods speak EngHsh. He had, in faot^ 
spoken it fluently, yes, even hke an Eu^Hshman. On farther 
cross-examination it also appeared that ne did not like being 
thought an Englishman ; that he would insist vehemently 
upon his French extraction ; that nobody knew who he was, or 
whence he came ; and that all any one did know of him was 
what he himself had chosen to state. 

The defence was long and laboured. The prisoner's counsel 
did not enter into the question of the murder naving been com- 
mitted by Jabez North, or not having been committed by Jabez 
North. What he endeavoured to show was, that the prisoner 
at the bar was not Jabez North ; but that he was a victim . to 
one of those cases of mistaken identity of which there are. bo 
mau]^ on record both in English and foreign criminal archives. 
He cited the execution of the Frenchman Joseph Lesurges, for 
the murder of the Courier of Lyons. He spoke of tho case of 
Elizabeth Canning, in which a crowd of witnesses on either side 
persisted in supporting entirely conflicting statements, without 
any evident motive whatsoever. He endeavoured to dissect the 
evidence of Mr. "William Withers ; he sneered at that worthy 
citizen's wholesale slaughter of the English of her most gracious 
Majesty and subjects. He tried to overthrow that gentlemait 
by ten minutes on the wrong side of the Slopperton clocks ; he 
did his best to damage him by puzzling him as to whether the 
truck he spoke of had two legs and one wheel, or two wheels 
and one leg : but he tried in vain. Mr. Withers was not to be 
damaged; he stood as firm as a rock, and still swore that he 
carried the dead body of Jim IJomax out of Blind Peter and on 
to the heath, and that the man who commanded him so to do 
was ^e prisoner at the bar. Neither was Mr. Augi»tus Darley 
to be damaged ; nor yet the landlord of the Bargeman^ 
Dfclight, who, in spite of all cross-examination, preserved a 
gloomy and resolute attitude, and declared that "that youug 
man at the bar, which his hair was then light, had a row with 
a younff woman in the tap-room, and throwed that there gold 
com to her, which she chucked it back savage." In short, the 
defence, though it lasted two hours and a half, was a very lame 
one ; and a close observer might have seen one flash from the 
blue eyes of the man standing at the bar, which glanced in the 
direction of the eloquent Mr. Prius, Q.C., as he uttered the last 
words of his peroration, revengeful and murderous enough, brief 
though it was, to give to the spectator some idea that the Count 
ie Marolles, innocent and injured victim of circumstantial 



The End of the DarJe Boat. 813 

evidence as he might be, was not the safest person in the worl6 
to offend. 

The judge delivered his charge to the jury, and they retired. 

There was breathless impatience in the court for three-quarters 
of an hour ; such impatience that the three-quarters seemed to be 
three entire hours, and some of the spectators would have it that 
the clock had stopped. Once more fiie jury took their places. 

" Guilty !" A recommendation to mercy ? No ! Mercy was 
not for such as he. Not man's mercy . Oh, Heaven be praised 
that there is One whose mercy is as far above the mercy of the 
tenderest of earth's creatures as heaven is above that earth. 
Who shall say where is the man so wicked he may not hope for 
compassion there ? 

The judge put on the black cap and delivered the sentence- 

•* To be hanged by the neck I" 

The Count de MaroUes looked round at the crowd. It was 
beginning to disperse, when he lifted his slender ringed white 
hand. He was about to speak. The crowd, swaying hither and 
thither before, stopped as one man. As one man, nay, as one 
surging wave of the ocean, changed, in a breath, to stone. He 
smUed a bitter mocking defiant smile. 

" Worthy citizens of Slopperton," he said, his clear enuncia- 
tion ringing through the building distinct and musical, " I 
thank you for the trouble you have taken this day on my 
account. I have played a great game, and I have lost a great 
stake; but, remember, I first won that stake, and for eight years 
held it and enjoyed it. I have been the husband of one of the 
most beautiful and richest women in France. I have been a 
miliionaire, and one of the wealthiest merchant princes of the 
wealthy south. I started from the workhouse of this town ; I 
never in my life had a friend to help me or a relation to advise 
mc. To man I owe nothing. To God I owe only this, a will as 
indomitable as the stars He made, which have held their course 
through all time. XJnloved, unaided, unprayed for, unwept; 
motherless, fatherless, sist'^rless, brothcrless, friendless ; I have 
taken my own road, and have kept to it ; defying the earth on 
which I nave lived, and the unknown Powers above my head. 
That road has come to an end, and brought me — here I So be 
it ! I suppose, after all, the unknow^i Powers are strongest ' 
Gentlemen, I am ready." He bowed and followed the officials 
who led him from the dock to a coach waiting for him at th* 
entrance to the court. The crowd gathered round him with 
scared faces and eager eyes. 

The last Slopperton saw of the Count de MaroUes was a pali 
handsome face, a sardonic smile, and the delicate white hand 
i^hich rested upon the door of the hackney-coach. 

Ne^ tmoming, very early, men with grave faces congregate 



&12 The Trail of the Serpent 

at street-oorners, and talked together earnestly. Through Slop* 
perton like wildfire spread tbe mmoor of something, which had 
only been darkly hinted at the gaoL 

The prisoner nad destroyed mmself ! 

Later in the afternoon it was known that he had bled himself 
to death by means of a lancet not bigger than a pin, which he 
had worn for years concealed in a chased gold ring of massive 
forin and exquisite workmanship. 

llie gaoler had found him, at six o'clock on the morning after 
his triaS, seated, with his bloodless face lying on the little table 
of his cell, white, tranqnil, and dead. 

The agents from an exhibition of wax-works, and several 
phrenologists, came to look at and to take casts of his head, 
and masks of the handsome and aristocratic face. One of the 
phrenologists, who had given an opinion on his cerebral develop- 
ment ten years before, when Mr. Jabez North was considered 
a model of all Sloppertonian virtues and graces, and who had 
been treated with ignominy for that very opinion, was now in 
the highest spirits, and introduced the whole story into a series 
of lectures, which were afterwards very popular. The Count 
de MaroUes, with very long eyelashes, very small feet, and 
patent-leather boots, a faultless Stultsian evening costume, a 
white waistcoat, and any number of rings, was much admired 
in the Chamber of Horrors at the eminent wax- work exhibition 
above mentioned, and was considered well worth the extra six- 
pence for admission. Young ladies fell in love with him, and 
vowed that a bein^ — they called him a being — with such dear 
blue glass eyes, with beautiful curly eyelashes, and specks of 
lovely vermilion in each comer, could never have committed a 
horrid murder, but was, no doubt, the innocent victim of that 
cruel circumstantial evidence. Mr. Splitters put the Count into 
a melodrama in four periods — not acts, but periods: 1. Boy- 
hood — the Workhouse. 2. Youth — ^the School. 3. Manhood — 
the Palace. 4. Death — ^the Dungeon. This piece was very 
popular, and as Mr. Percy Cordonner had pro^esied, the Count 
was represented as living en permanence m Hessian boots with 
gold tassels ; and as always appearing, with a spirited disregard 
for the unities of time and space, two or three hundred miles 
distant from the spot in which he had appeared five minutes 
before, and performing in scene four the very action which his 
foes had described as being already done in scene three. But 
the transpontine audiences t5 whom the piece was represented 
were not in the habit of asking questions, and as long as you 
gave them plenty of Hessian boots and pistol-shots for tneir 
money, yon might snap your fingers at Aristotle's ethics, and 
all the Greek dramatists into the bargain. What would they 
"■"Iftve cared for the cl^9sic schoplP Would they have givoi^ 9 



Jhrewell to ^England. 813 

thanlc-jon for "Zaire, vons plenrez !" or "Qu'il moxirutr' Ko ; 
give them enongli blue fire and honest British sentiment, with 
plenty of chintz waistcoats and top-boots, and yon might laagh 
Comeille and Voltaire to scorn, and be snre of a long run on 
the Surrey side of the water. 

So the race was run, and, after all, the cleverest horse was not 
the winner. Where was the Countess de Marolles during her 
husband's trial? Alas! Valerie, thine has been a troubled 
youth, bat it may be that a brighter fate is yet in store for 
thee I 



CHATTER THE LAST. 

PAREWELL TO ENGLAND. 

ScABCELT had Slopperton subsided in some degree from the 
excitement into which it had been thrown by the trial and 
suicide of Rajnnond de Marolles, when it was again astir with 
news, which was, if anything, more exciting. It is needless to 
say that after the trial and condemnation of De Marolles, there 
was not a little regretful sympathy felt by the good citizens of 
Slopperton for their unfortunate townsman, Richard Marwood, 
who, after having been found guilty of a murder he had never 
committed, had perished, as the story went, in a futile attempt 
to escape from the asylum in which he had been confined. 
What, then, were the feeh'ngs of Slopperton when, about a 
month after the suicide of the murderer of Montague Harding, 
a paragraph appeared in one of the local papers which stated 
positively that Mr. Richard Marwood was still alive, he having 
succeeded in escaping from the county asylum ? 

This was enough. Here was a hero of romance indeed ; here 
was innocence triumphant for once in real life, as on the mimic 
scene. Slopperton was wild with one universal desire to 
embrace so distinguished a citizen. The local papers of the 
following week were full of the subject, and Richard Marwood 
was earnestly solicited to appear once more in his native town, 
that every inhabitant thereof, from the highest to ttie lowest, 
might be enabled to testify heartfelt sympathy for his unde- 
served misfortunes, and sincere delight in his happy restoration 
to name and fame. 

The hero was not long in replying to the friendly petition ot 
the inhabitants of his native place. A letter from Richard 
appeared in one of the papers, in which he stated that as he was 
about to leave England for a considerable period, perhaps for 
ever, he should do himself the honour of responding to the 
kind wishes of his friends, and once more shake nands with the 
acquaintance of his youth before he left his native country. 

llie SJoppertonian Jack-in-the-preen, assisted by the rather 



814 The Trail of the Serpeni. 

Btalwort damsels in dirtjpink ganzeandcrampled blue-and-jellow 
artificial flowers, bad scarcely ushered in the sweet spring month 
of the year, when Slopperton arose simnltaneonsly and harried as 
one man to the railway-station, to welcome the nero of the day 
The report has spread — no one ever knows how these reports 
arise — that Mr. Bichard Marwood is to arrive this day. Sloppei - 
ton must be at hand to bid him welcome to his native town, t« 
repair the wrong it has so long done him in holding him np tu 
aniversal detestation as the George Barnwell of modern times. 

Which train will he come by ? There is a whisper of the 
three o'clock express; and at three o'clock in the afternoon, 
therefore, the station and station-yard are crowded. 

llie Slopperton station, like most other stations, is bnilt at a 
little distance from the town, so that the humble traveller who 
arrives by the parliamentary train, with all hid earthly posses- 
sions in a red cotton pocket-handkerchief or a brown-paper 
parcel, and to whom such thiiigs as cabs are imknown luxuries, 
IS often disappointed to find t£^ when he gets to Slopjberton 
station he is not in Slopperton proper. There is a gfdat Sahara 
of building-ground ana mcomplote brick-and-mortor, varyxi;^iich 
to let, to be crossed before the traveller finds himself in High 
Street, or South Street, or East Street, or any of the populous 
neighbourhoods of this magnificent city. 

Every disadvantage, however, is generally counterbalanced by 
some advantage, and nothing could be more suitable than this 
grand Sahara of broken ground and unfinished neighbourhood 
for the purposes of a triumphal entry into Slopperton. 

There is a great deal of animated conversation going on upon 
the platform inside the station. It is a noticeable fact tnat 
everybody present — and there are some hundreds — appears to 
have been intimately acquainted with Eichard from his very 
babyhood. This one remembers many a gam&* at cricket with 
him on those very fields yonder; another would be a rich man if 
he had only a sovereign for every cigar he has smoked in the 
society of Mr. Marwood. That old gentleman yonder taught 
our hero his declensions, and always nad a diflGiculty with him 
about the ablative case. The elderiy female with the dropsica** 
umbrella had nursed him as a baby ; " and the finest baby he 
was as ever I saw," she adds enthusiastically. Those two gen- 
tlemen who came down to the station in their own brougham 
are the kind doctors who carried him through that terrible 
brain-fever of his early yor.th, and whose evidence was of some 
service to him at his trial. Everywhere along the crowded 
platform there are friends ; noisy excited gesticulating friends, 
who have started a hero on their own account, and who wouldn't 
turn aside to-day to get a bow from majesty itself. 

Five minutes to three. From the doctor's fifty-guinea CbfO* 



Farewell to England. 31S 

nometer, \)j Benson, to the silver turnip &oin the wide bulF waist- 
coat of the farmer, everybody's watch is ont, and nobody will 
beKeve but that hia particnlax time is the right time, and every 
other watch, and the station dock into the bargain, wrong. 

Two minutes to three. Clang goes the great bell. The 
station-master clears the Hne. Here it comes, only a speck of 
dull red fire as yet, and a slender colunm of curling smoke; but 
the London express for all that. Here it comes, wildly tearing 
up the tender green countiy, rushing headlong through the 
smoky suburbs ; it comes within a few hundred yards of the 
station ; and there, amidst a labyrinth of straggling lines and a 
chaos of emptor carriages and disabled engines, it stops delibe- 
rately for the ticket-collectors to go their accustomed round. 

Good gracious me, how badly those ticket-collectors do their 
duty ! — ^how slow they are ! — ^what a time the elderly females in 
the second class appear to be fambling in their reticules before 
they produce the required document! — ^what an age, in short, it 
is before the train puffs lazily up to the platform ; and yet, only 
two minutes by the station-clock. 

Which is he P There is a long line of carriages. The eager 
eyes look into each. There is a fat dark man with large whiskers 
reading the paper. Is that EichardP He may be altered, you 
know, they say; but surely eight years could never have 
changed him into that. No ! there he is ! There is no mistaking 
him this time. The handsome dark face, with the thick black 
moustache, and the clustering frame of waving raven hair, looks 
out of a first-class carriage. In another moment he is on the 
platform, a lady by his side, young and pretty, who bursts into 
tears as the crowd press around mm, and hides her face on an 
elderly lady's shoulder. That elderly lady is his mother. How 
eagerly the Sloppertonians gather round him! He does not 
speak, but stretches out botib his hands, which are nearly shaken 
off his wrists before he knows where he is. 

Why doesn't he speak P Is it because he cannot P Is it 
because there is a choking sensation in his throat, and his lips 
refuse to articulate the words that are trembling upon them ? la 
it because he remembers the last time he alighted on this very 
platform — the time when he wore handcuffs on his wrists anu 
walked guarded between two men; that bitter time when the 
crowd held aloof from him, and pointed him out as a murderer 
and a villain ? There is a mist over his dark eyes as he looks 
round at those eager friendly faces, and he is glad to slouch his 
hat over lus forehead, and to walk quickly througn the crowd to the 
carriage waiting for him in the station-yard. He has his mothe? 
on one arm and the young lady on the other ; his old friend Gui 
Parley is with him too ; and tne four step into the carriage. 

Then, how the cheers and the huzzas burst forth, in one ^eai 



816 The Trail of (he Serpent 

hoarse shout ! Three cheers for Eichard, for his mother, for hit 
faithful friend Gas Darlej, who assisted him to escape from the 
lunatic asylum, for the young lady — ^but who is the young lady P 
Everybody is so anxious to know who the young lady is, that 
when Bichard introduces her to the doctors, the crowd presses 
round, and putting aside ceremony, openly and deliberatclly 
listens. Good Heavens I the young lady is his wife, the sister of 
his friend Mr. Darley, "who wasn't afraid to trust me," the 
crowd heard him say, "when the world was against me, and who 
in adversity or prosperity alike was ready to bless me with her 
devoted love." Good gracious me I More cheers for the young 
lady. The young lady is Mrs. Marwood. Three cheers for Mrs. 
Marwood ! Three cheers for Mr. and Mrs. Marwood I Three 
cheers for the happy pair! 

At length the cheering is over— or, at least, over for the 
moment. Slopperton is m such an excited state that it is easy 
to see it will break out a^ain by-and-by. The coachman gives a 
preliminary flourish of his whip as a signal to his flery steeds. 
jFiery steeds, indeed ! " Nothmg so common as a horse shall 
carry Richard Marwood into Slopperton," cry the excited towns- 
people. We ourselves will draw the carriage — we, the respectable 
tradespeople — we, the tag-rag and bob-tail, anybody and every- 
body — will make ourselves for the nonce beasts of burden, and 
think it no disgrace to draw the triumphal car of this our towns- 
man. In vain Richard remonstrates. His handsome face — ^his 
radiant smiles, only rekindle the citizens* enthusiasm. They 
think of the bright young scapegrace whom they all knew years 
ago. They think of his very faults—which were virtues in the 
eyes of the populace. They remember the day he caned a police- 
man who had laid violent hands on a helpless little boy for 
begging in the streets — ^the night he wrenched off the knocker of 
an unpopular magistrate who had been hard upon a poacher. 
They recalled a hundred escapades for which those even who 
reproved him had admired him; and they gather round the 
carriage in which he stands with his hat off, the May sunlight in 
his bright hazel eyes, his dark hair waving in the spring breeze 
around his wide candid brow, and one slender hand stretched out 
to restrain, if he can, this tempest of enthusiasm. Restrain itP — 
No! that is not to be done. You can go and stand upon the shore 
and address yourselves to the waves of the sea ; you can mildly 
remonstrate with the wolf as to his intentions with regard to the 
innocent lamb ; but you cannot check the enthusiasm of a hearty 
British crowd when its feelings are excited in a good cause. 

Away the carriage goes ! with the noisy populace about the 
wheels. What is this ? — ^music ? Yes ; two opposition bands. 
One is playing "See, the conquering hero comes!" while the 
©ther exhausts itself, and gets black io the face, with the exertio* 



Varewett to ^Engtcmi, 81^ 

liecess§jy in doing justice to " Rule Britannia." At last, how- 
ever, the hotel is reached. But the triumph of Richard is not yet 
finished. He must make a speech. He docs, ultimately, con- 
sent to say a few words in answer to the earnest entreaties of that 
clamorous crowd. He tells his friends, in a very few simple sen- 
tences, how this hour, of all others, is the hour for which he has 
prayed for nearly nine lon^ years ; and how he sees, in the most 
tiimng circumstances wmch have aided, however remotely, 
in bringing this hour to pass, the hand of an all-powerful Provi- 
dence. He tells them how he sees in these years of sorrow 
through which he has passed a punishment for the careless sins 
of his youth, for the unhappiness he has caused his devoted 
mother, and for his indifference to the blessings Heaven has 
bestowed on him ; how he now prays to be more worthy of the 
bright future which lies so fair oefore him ; how he means the 
rest of his life to be an earnest and a useful one ; and how, to the 
last hour of that life, he will retain the memory of their generous 
and enthusiastic reception of him this day. It is doubtful how 
much more he might nave said ; but just at this point his eyes 
became peculiarly affected — ^perhaps by the dust, perhaps by the 
sunshine — and he was forced once more to have recourse to his 
hat, which he pulled fairly over those optics prior to springing 
out of the carnage and hurrying into the notel, amidst the frantic 
cheers of the sterner sex, and the audible sobs of the fairer por- 
tion of the community. 

His visit was but a flying one. The night train was to take 
him across country to Liverpool, whence he was to start the fol- 
lowing day for South Amenca. This was kept, however, a pro- 
found secret from the crowd, which might else have insisted on 
giving him a second ovation. It was not very quickly dispersed, 
this enthusiastic throng. It lingered for a long time under the 
windows of the hotel. It drank a great deal of bottled ale and 
London porter in the bar round the comer by the stable-yard ; 
and it steadfastly refused to go away imtil it had had Richard 
out upon the balcony several times, and had given him a great 
many more tumultuous greetings. When it had quite exhausted 
Richard (our hero looking paJe from over-excitement) it took 
to Mr. Darley as vice-hero, and would have carried him round the 
town with one of the bands of music, had he not prudently de- 
clined that offer. It was so bent on doing something, that at last, 
when it did consent to go away, it went into the Market-place 
and had a fight — not from any pugilistic or vindictive feeling, 
but from the simple necessity of finishing the evening somehow. 

There is no possibility of sitting down to dinner till after 
dark. But at last the shutters are closed and the curtains aro 
drawn by the obsequious waiters; the dinner-table is spread 
with gHtt(3ring plate and snowy linen; the landlord himself 



816 !the Trail of the Serpent. 

brings in the soup and uncorks the sherry, and the litUe partj 
draws round the social board. Why should we brea.k in upon 
that happy group P With the wife he loves, the mother whoso 
devotion has survived every trial, the friend whose aid has 
brought about his restoration to freedom and society, with ample 
wealtii wherefrom to reward all who have served Lim in his 
adversity, what more has Richard to wish for? 

A close carriage conveys the little party to the station; and by 
the twelve o'clock train they leave Slopperton, some of them 
perhaps never to visit it again. 

The next day a much larger party is assembled on board the 
Oronohoj a vessel lying off Liverpool, and about to sail for 
South America. Bachard is there, his wife and mother still by 
his side ; and there are several others whom we know grouped 
about the deck. Mr. Peters is there. He has come to bid fare- 
well to the young man in whose fortunes and misfortunes he 
has taken so warm and unfailing an interest. He is a man of 
independent property now, thanks to Eichard, who thinks the 
hundred a-year settled on him a very small reward for his 
devotion — but he is very melancholy at parting with the master 
he has so loved. 

" I think, sir," he says on his fingers, " I shall marry Kuppins, 
and give my mind to the education of the * fondling.' ECe'll bo 
a great man, sir, if he Hves ; for his heart, boy as he is, is all in 
his profcijBion. Would you believe it, sir, that child bellowed 
for three mortal hours because his father committed suicide, 
and disappointed the boy of seein' him hung ? That's what I 
calls a love of business, and no mistake." 

On the other side of the deck there is a little group which 
Richard presently joins. A lady and gentleman and a Httle boy 
are standing there ; and, at a short distance from them, a grave- 
looking man with dark-blue spectacles, and a servant — a Lascar. 

There is a peculiar style about the gentleman, on whose arm 
tlie lady leans, that bespeaks him to the most casual observer to 
be a military man, in spite of his plain dress and loose great 
coat. And the lady on his arm, that dark classic face, is not 
one to be easily forgotten. It is Valerie de Cevennes, who leans 
on the arm of her first and beloved husband, Gaston de Lancy. 
If I have said Httle of this meeting — of this restoration of the 
only man she ever loved, which has been to her as a resurrection 
of the dead — ^it is because there are some joys which, from their 
very intensity, are too painful and too sacred for many words. 
He was restored to her. She had never murdered him. The 
potion given her by Blurosset was a very powerful opiate, which 
tad produced a sleep resembling death in all its outward 
PTvmptoms. Through the influence of the chemist the report ol 
lue death was spread abroad. The truth, except to Gastcai't 



t*arewetl to Sngtand. 319 

fliOBt devoted friends, had never been revealed. But the 
blow had been too much for him ; and when he was told by 
whom his death Imd been attempted, he fell into a fever, which 
lasted for many months, during which period his reason was 
entirely lost, and from which he was only rescued by the 
devotion of the chemist — a devotion on Blurosset's part which, 
perhaps, had proceeded as much from love of the science he 
studied as of the man he saved. Recovering at last, Graston 
de Lancy found that the glorious voice which had been his 
fortune was entirely gone. What was there for him to do? He 
enlisted in the East Lidia Company's service ; rose through the 
SMi campaign with a rapidity which astonished the bravest of 
his compeers. There was a romance about his story that made 
him a hero in his regiment. He was known to have plenty of 
money — ^to have had no earthly reason for enlisting; but he 
told them he would rise, as his father had done before him, in 
the wars of the Empire, by merit alone, and iie had kept his 
word. The French ensign, the lieutenant, the captain — ^in each 
'nsing grade he had been alike beloved, alike admired, as a 
sJiining example of reckless courage and miUtary genius. 

The arrest of the soi-disant Count de Marolles had brought 
Richard Marwood and Gaston de Lancy into contact. Both 
Bufferers from the consummate perfidy of one man, they became 
acquainted, and, ere lonff, friends. Some part of Gaston's story 
was told to Eichard and ms young wife, Isabella ; but it is need- 
less to say, that the dark past in which Valerie was concerned 
remained a secret in the oreast of her husband, of Laurent 
Blurosset, and herself. The father clasped his son to his heart, 
and opened his arms to receive the wife whom he had pardoned 
long ago, and whose years of terrible agony had atoned for the 
wildly-attempted crime of her youth. 

On Richard and Gaston becoming fast friends, it had been 
a^eed between them that Richard should join De Lancy and 
his wife in South America ; where, far from the scenes which 
association had made pain^ to both, they might commence a 
new existence. Yalene, once more mistress of that immense 
fortune of which De Marolles had so long had the command, 
was enabled to bestow it on the husband of her choice. The 
bank was cloced in a manner satisfactory to all whose interests 
had been connected with it. The cashier, who was no other 
than the lively gentleman who had assisted in De Marolles* 
attempted escape, was arrested on a charge of embezzlement, 
and made to disgorge the money he had abstracted. 

The Marquis de Cevennes elevated his delicately-arched 
eyebrows on reading an abridged account of the trial of his son, 
and his subsequent suicide ; but tho elegant Parisian did not ^ 
into mourning for this nnfortunate scion of his aristocratia 



^ 



8^ l%e frail of the Serpent 

house; and indeed, it Is doubtful if five minutes aftet he lidd 
thrown aside the journal he had any sensation whatever about 
the painful circumstances therein related. He expressed 
the same gentlemanly surprise upon being informed of the 
marriage of his niece with Captain Lansdown, late of the East 
India Company's service, ana of her approaching departure 
with her hushiand for her South American estates. S.e sent 
her his blessing and a breakfast-service ; with the portraits of 
Louis the Well-beloved, Madame du Barry, Choiseul, and 
D'Aiguillon, painted on the cups, in oval medaUions, on a back- 
ground of turquoise, packed in a casket of buhl lined with white 
velvet; and, I dare say, he^dismissed his niece and her troubles 
from hu recollection quite as easily as he despatched this elegant 
present to the railway which was to convey it to its destination. 

The bell rings ; the friends of the passengers drop down the 
side of the vessel into the little Liverpool steamer. There are 
Mr. Peters and Gus Darley waving their hats in the distance. 
Farewell, old and faithful friends, farewell; but surely not 
for ever. Isabella sinks sobbing on her husband's shoulder. 
Valerie looks with those deed unfathomable eyes out towards 
the blue horizon-line that bounds the far-away to which they go. 

" There, Gaston, we shall forget " 

" Never your long sufferings, mj Valerie," he murmurs, as he 
presses the little hajid resting onnis arm; "those shall never be 
forgotten." 

" And the horror of that dreadful night, Gaston — — ** 

" Was the madness of a love which thought itself wronged, 
Valerie : we can forgive every wrong which springs from the 
depth of such a love. 

Spread thy white wings, oh, ship I The shadows melt away 
into that purple distance. I see in that far South two happy 
homes ; glistening white-walled villas, half buried in the luxu- 
riant verdure of that lovely climate. I hear the voices of the 
children in the dark oran^-grovet), where the scented blossoms 
fall into the marble basm of the fountain. I see Eichard 
reclining in an easy-chair, imderthe veranda, half hidden by the 
trailing jasmines that shroud it from the evening sunsnine, 
smoking the long cherry-stemmed pipe which his wife has filled 
for him. Gaaton parses,, with his sharp military step, np and 
down the terrace at their feet, stopping as he passes oy to lay 
a caressing hand on the dark curls of the son he loves. And 
Valerie — she leans against the slender pillar of the porch, round 
which the scented yellow roses are twined, and watches, with 
earnest eyes, the husband of her earliest choice. Oh, happy 
shadows 1 Few m this work-a-day world so fortunate as you 
who win in your prim** of life the fiilfilment of tJtM 3«i*-r dream 
c/jonr youth 1 



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